Posted January 05, 2014

NFL Playoffs 2013: An early look ahead to the divisional round

AFC East, AFC South, AFC West, NFC South, NFC West, NFL Playoffs
Shayne Graham

Two of the four first-round playoff games were won on last-second field goals. (Al Tielemans/SI)

Good luck topping that next week, NFL.

The league kicked off its playoff season with a nail-biting weekend of action, which opened with Indianapolis’ 28-point rally against Kansas City and closed on a Phil Dawson game-winning kick against Green Bay. Three road teams won in the wild-card round — and it would have been four had the Colts not pulled off one of the sport’s all-time great comebacks.

The visitors may find a tougher road in Round 2. There, the top four seeds await after enjoying a bye.

Let’s take an early glance at the matchups to come:

MORE COVERAGE: Wild-card Snaps | Schedule, results | Best, worst from wild-card round

AFC

No. 6 San Diego Chargers (9-7) at No. 1 Denver Broncos (13-3)

It’s a mistake for any team to ever feel really comfortable in the playoffs. And seeing the Chargers again might have the Broncos a little extra uneasy this week.

San Diego split the season series with Denver, winning at Mile High on Thursday night in Week 15. The Broncos scored an NFL-record 603 points during the regular season, which works out to an average of 37.9 points per game. But they mustered only 24 per outing vs. the Chargers. Peyton Manning’s offense had the ball for a mere 21 minutes and 11 seconds in that earlier loss, as San Diego controlled the tempo and the clock.

Ryan Mathews was key to that approach, rushing 29 times for 127 yards. Will he be available for a full workload next week? Hard to say — he played sparingly in San Diego’s win over the Bengals, and head coach Mike McCoy did not offer much detail at the reason.

In Denver’s win over the Chargers, Demaryius Thomas stole show with three touchdown catches. Manning fired four TDs in all that game. San Diego picked off Andy Dalton twice Sunday, but it finished the regular season with the 29th-ranked pass defense, so Manning no doubt will take to the air.

Denver fans need no reminder that their team also finished the 2012 season with a 13-3 record and the No. 1 seed, only to lose a double OT thriller to Baltimore in the divisional round.

No. 4 Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at No. 2 New England Patriots (12-4)

Andrew Luck takes his magic act on the road. One thing’s for sure as he does: Indianapolis probably cannot afford to cough up 44 points again, like in its dramatic wild-card victory over Kansas City.

Even without Rob Gronkowski or any real dominant No. 1 receiver, the Patriots’ offense has shown itself capable of hitting those heights on occasion. Tom Brady finished the regular season with 4,343 yards passing, a 60.5 completion percentage and 25 touchdowns, topping Luck in all of those categories. His No. 1 target, Julian Edelaman, topped the century mark with 105 catches.

The real danger in defending the Patriots’ attack, though, comes in trying to account for all of their running backs. Stevan Ridley led the way there with 835 yards from scrimmage (and seven touchdowns), Shane Vereen is a valuable dual-threat back and LeGarrette Blount accounted for 334 total yards in Week 17.

Indianapolis’ defense answered the bell in the second half Saturday, limiting Kansas City to just six points over the final 28 minutes. But the Colts are banged up in the secondary, so their hopes may rest on Robert Mathis and the front generating a little heat on Brady.

On the other side of the football, expect Luck to look deep at least a few times — T.Y. Hilton is one of the league’s more dangerous deep threats, and Da’Rick Rogers showed against the Chiefs that he can make a play or two himself. Getting Donald Brown going early against the Patriots’ 30th-ranked rush defense would make those attempts easier to find.

NFC

No. 6 New Orleans Saints (11-5) at No. 1 Seattle Seahawks (13-3)

New Orleans’ last playoff trip to the Pacific Northwest? The famous Marshawn Lynch “Beastmode” performance, in which the Seattle back rumbled through the entire Saints defense for a 67-yard touchdown to help the 7-9 Seahawks upset the Saints.

The Saints’ visit to Seattle earlier this season was not any more enjoyable. The Seahawks raced out to a 17-0 lead and coasted to a 34-7 win with Drew Brees throwing for a paltry 147 yards, his lowest passing total since the 2006 season. To give his team a chance next week, Brees will have to be much better than that. He’ll also have to step up his game from the up-and-down effort he had in the 26-24 victory at Philadelphia on Saturday.

The Seahawks were the only team to hang more than 30 points on Rob Ryan’s defense after the Saints’ Week 7 bye. Of course, even that work was not enough to keep the Saints from losing their final four regular-season games away from home.

Lynch is still around as a dangerous back for the Seahawks (feels like he’s older than 27, doesn’t it?), but quarterback Russell Wilson is the driving force there. He accounted for 357 total yards and three touchdowns vs. the Saints on Dec. 2.

No. 5 San Francisco 49ers (12-4) at No. Carolina Panthers (12-4)

Predicting what will occur in the NFL playoffs is a fool’s errand, but there is something you can take to the bank: This matchup will be an absolute slobberknocker.

The 49ers and Panthers beat the stuffing out of each other in Week 10, when Carolina stole a hard-earned 10-9 victory at Candlestick. The Panthers recorded six sacks and held the dangerous San Francisco offense — and quarterback Colin Kaepernick — almost completely in check. Kaepernick mustered just 91 yards passing, as an early 9-0 San Francisco lead slipped away.

Cam Newton did not fare much better against San Francisco’s front seven. He was dropped for three sacks (two by Ahmad Brooks) and hit on 16-of-32 passes with an interception. The game’s lone touchdown came on a 27-yard scamper by DeAngelo Williams.

The defending NFC champion 49ers proved their mettle again Sunday. They ventured into freezing cold Lambeau Field to nab a last-second win over the host Packers. Michael Crabtree, whom the 49ers did not have in that earlier matchup with Carolina, hauled in eight grabs for 125 yards as the passing game’s centerpiece.

Carolina certainly will have to account for him next weekend; he has quickly re-established himself as Kaepernick’s preferred option, at least until Kaepernick looks for Vernon Davis in the red zone.

The Panthers’ crowd ought to be revved up. This is the franchise’s first home playoff game since 2008, and Carolina will be shooting for its first home playoff win since the 2003 season.

78 comments
fuzzysuzie
fuzzysuzie

Montana, Super Bowl 4-0, zero INTs

jacobhaight1678
jacobhaight1678

My picks for the divisional rounds are


Seattle

San Diego

San Francisco

New England


New Orleans Seattle: 23-17

The Saints lose but don't get blown out this time, they will manage to slow down beast mode but Wilson aided by good field position and turnovers generated from that defense will be able to put up just enough production to beat the Saints who will once again be stifled by Seattle.


San DIego Denver: 27-24

The charger edge this one out just like the first game, they are hot and Manning will be cold up their at mile high. San Diego will come in and run the ball effectively against that Denver defense and subsequently control the clock and limit Peyton's touches. On Defense San Diego will frustrate Denver by keeping everything in front of them, not allowing big plays, and getting pressure.  


San Fransisco Carolina: 24-17

This time around San Fransisco will have 7 starters back that were either injured before or during the 1st half of the first meeting. The production from Boldin, Crabtree, and Davis will force the Carolina defense to back off into their nickle packages allowing Gore to "grind some meet" and Kaepernick to do his thing running the ball, keeping Carolina on the back foot all game. Cam and the Panther's offense won't be fazed by their first playoff appearance and will play effectively. However, with FS Eric Reid and OLB Aldon Smith healthy this time around and Carlina lacking enough legitimate threats in the passing game, with a less than 100%, Steve Smith, the 49ers will be able to load the box and smother Carolina's offense.


Indianapolis New England: 34-17

Belichick and the New England Defense will take away TY Hilton and put pressure in Luck's face forcing him to make mistakes like he did in the KC game and turn the ball over. Furthermore, Like in the KC game Brady will punish the Colts defense just Smith did and will have no problem driving the ball down the field and scoring points. The only difference their will be no lucky bounces or wide open recievers deep down the field. New England will get a lead early and then start pounding the rock and controlling the clock. I don't see Belichick & Brady allowing this to be much of a game.

jacobhaight1678
jacobhaight1678

7 Reason Why the 49ers will be a completely different team than the first 49er Panther game


1. Crabtree, 49ers #1 WR, will play in this game

2. Davis, 49ers #1 TE, will play who was concussed early in the 1st quarter last game

3. Patton 49ers #3 WR, will play this game

4. Iupati, 49ers pro-bowl guard, will play this game

5. Smith, 49ers OLB, and #1 pass rusher will play this game

6. Eric Reid, 49ers FS, will play this game who was concussed early on in the last meeting

7. Celek, 49ers #3 TE, when Celek went down early in the first half the 49ers were down to 1 TE


That will be 7 Starters that will be ready to go Sunday that were either injured before or during the early moments of the first meeting between these 2 teams. The 49ers kept this game to within 1 point and held Carolina to 10 points with 7 starters 1/3 of their starters out, could Carolina have done the same thing without their #1 & #3 WRs, #1 & #3 TEs, Left Guard, Right OLB, and Free Safety against an Healthy 49ers team? This will be a completely different game in which the Panthers will need to put up more points if they want to win I see the winner of the game having around 24-28 points.

CarolCowan
CarolCowan

OK, I'm back and I'll be happy to remind all of you that the new kids on the block are NOT pocket passers.

Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, and Cam Newton are NOT afraid to leave the pocket and make a few plays

of their own.   All you guys and all your testosterone cannot predict the super bowl just yet.   Denver and

New England can yet again be spectators for the second year in a row.    

ElvisHitler
ElvisHitler

The green bay puckers will win it all, wait they got mud stomped at their own house. Sayonora chumps.

DenisMcDanel
DenisMcDanel

"Denver fans need no reminder that their team also finished the 2012 season with a 13-3 record and the No. 1 seed, only to lose a double OT thriller to Baltimore in the divisional round."


Actually, they do. Most Bronco fans I've been talking to are giving the Chargers absolutely ZERO chance of winning on Sunday. I guess they didn't learn from last year OR the earlier meeting between the Chargers and Broncos at Mile High.

Rick56
Rick56

So far, all the wild card teams (with the exception of Indy) are taking control...why not go all the way. ..

RCH
RCH

At the end of day Brady will be collecting his 4th Lombardi.


JodyLawrence
JodyLawrence

Best game of  the week coming up is going to be Carolina and SF I am equating this game the same as I would 2 300 lb heavyweights standing toe to toe and pounding the crap out of each other, blow for blow, the first one to blink, gets am invisible left haymaker to the nose and is pronounced a KO, I really look forward to seeing this game, lots of hard hits, lots of injuries.  Go Hawks..!!!

lancervi.mje
lancervi.mje

The crazy thing here is that no matter who wins at SF vs Car, the team that comes out is going to be BEAT UP and probably have injuries going into Seattle. That is going to be a seriously physical game. I give them no shot, who ever wins, because of how it worked out. 


The Saints lose in Seattle and whoever wins in Carolina uses up most of their tank and has nothing left in Seattle.

JoeySaskatoonLongo
JoeySaskatoonLongo

Seattle 24 New Orleans 17 (Tied at 2- Minute warning. Lynch scores 3-yd TD)
San Francisco 27 Carolina 17 (Carolina get beat due to lack of experience)
San Diego 44 Denver 41 (OT) (Rivalry end up with another shocking OT DEN loss)
New England 54 Indianapolis 27 (Tom picks on the secondary, NE D shows up)  

herpderp119
herpderp119

"The Panthers’ crowd ought to be revved up. This is the franchise’s first home playoff game since 2008, and Carolina will be shooting for its first home playoff win since the 2003 season."

You forgot about that one time in 2005 when they played Seattle in the NFC Championship game... had to win two road playoff games (NYG, CHI) to get there.

mikebtxstate
mikebtxstate

NO 27  Seattle 17 (Won't be as cold in Seattle as the Saints saw in Philly.  Upset of the year.)

Indy 34  NE 27 (I think Indy's D will step up to score some points in this one)

SF 27 Carolina 10 (I don't see Cam putting up a ton a points vs this SF Defense. Even the Packers could have beat Carolina.)

SD 32  Denver 27  (Denver barely beat them the first time around and the Bolts had their number the second time around.) 



Chuckster
Chuckster

Just missed having a good weekend pick wise, but the games were good.  Here's this weekend's picks...


DEN  42    SD   38

INDY 28    NE    24

SF    31    CAR  20

SEA  28    NO   17


EdNoneofyourbiz
EdNoneofyourbiz

@jacobhaight1678 : I agree with what you have said.


However, the Niners did lose Bruce Miller (a significant loss).


Also, the 49ers will be playing against a team that has gotten a week of rest while the 49ers played a tough game, they had to travel to and from Green Bay and back, and now to Carolina, while the Panthers stayed home, and the 49ers will be playing in a hostile stadium, with the fans very excited and vocal.


Still, I think that the pluses that you enumerated outweigh the disadvantages that I just listed.



pmk1790
pmk1790

@Rick56 Pretty close to the Wild Card teams going 4-0..... 

BobbySabnani
BobbySabnani

@RCH Is that what they hand out after the Divisional Playoffs? Then Tom Brady must love his Lombardi trophy from last year too! 

Chuckster
Chuckster

@RCHI think what you MEANT to say was "Lamborghini".   It's a common mistake because Brady will never hoist a 4th Lombardi trophy.

pmk1790
pmk1790

@RCH the end of today? That seems weird. 

BobbySabnani
BobbySabnani

@JodyLawrence I root for the same thing up in Seattle...Lots of hits on Wilson, and Marshawn Lynch finally throwing out his back. 

BobbySabnani
BobbySabnani

@JoeySaskatoonLongo Yeah, as a Niners fan, I would have to agree that we aren't scoring 27 on Carolina...on that note, there is no way that Carolina puts up 17 on us...I would say Niners win 17-10 and Cam throws a pick 6. 

rmcginnis456
rmcginnis456

@JoeySaskatoonLongo SF isn't scoring 27 on Carolina.  More like 17-13.  SF's season ends in Seattle one week later.  SF is very dangerous, and I thought they were going to win it all, until I saw them in the GB game.  Kaepernick was sacked and rushed too many times by a D that is the worst they will see in the playoffs.

JasonRue
JasonRue

@herpderp119 dude it says HOME playoff win....you even posted it in your comment and STILL didnt read it correctly lol.

RCH
RCH

@herpderp119 huh? Seattle won that game so what are you talking about?

Rick56
Rick56

@Richard--Ramirez Those are my picks too win the next games...with that in mind, the National Championship will be played at Candlestick.

Chuckster
Chuckster

@Richard--Ramirez   Let me guess.....SF over SD in the SB...and it will be a SF BLOWOUT of record proportions, right?    I like SF and Indy too this weekend.   But NO and SD should lose.  The only thing delusional is your belief that what you think has ANY impact on the outcome of a game.   This is NOT a BudLite commercical.

drmuon
drmuon

@Richard--Ramirez NO is a lock? They've gotten blown out in Seattle twice and limped by Philly.  SD beating the Broncos 3x's in a row is also not a lock.   You're funny.


RileyMerino
RileyMerino

@mikebtxstate Bro that's ridiculous. You say the Broncos barely beat them the first time, and the Bolts had their number? Are you kidding? You do realize the Broncos beat them by more than they beat the Broncos? 

RS1022
RS1022

Barely?

I was at the Den @ SD game, and it was 28-6 at one point in the 2nd half. SD got some late TDs against a prevent defense, but the game was NEVER in doubt with Denver winning 28-20.

JesseLow
JesseLow

@mikebtxstateeven if NO were to win against Seattle, there is no way they are putting up 27 points against that D let alone beating them by more than 7 points. Just not happening


Chuckster
Chuckster

@mikebtxstate  Saints are going to have a tough time with the noise like they did last time and the telling factor I think will be is that it will be even louder than the last time they met.   You're right though, it would be an upset.


Like the INDY and SF picks.


I think this is Peyton's year, although I expect Phillip the mouth to give the Broncos all they can handle.   I like Denver in this one.

mvd
mvd

@ChucksterYou got all wrong.  NO shutdown the best running offense in Philly, you think NO cannot shutdown Hawks?  Think again.  Carolina is playing very good football and has a good defense.  They wont let Kap run like Packers did and Newton is just a beast to bring down when he takes off.  Remember the NE game?  He single handedly beat the Pats with his runs, of course in round 2, NE wont let him do that and thats because NE will beat the Colts in a dog fight, on a cold winter night and have you forgotten that Colts are an indoor team?  NE with its tuned up running game will be too much for the Colts as Brady has too many weapons as evidenced last 2 weeks.   They have peaked again for a deep run.  NE will then defeat the Chargers at home as Broncos will fail due to Manning throwing interceptions at most critical times.  Chargers will also give Manning the best seat in the house, on the bench, as they will control the clock.  NE is not like KC as they play fundamentally sound football.  If Luck falls behind, he wont get as much time as KC gave him, to stage a complete comeback.  So, here is to NE and CAR in SB in NJ and on a cold winter night, NE will lift the Lombardi trophy.

pantherfan1117
pantherfan1117

@Chuckster SF 31 points against Carolina's top ranked D? San Fran would

be lucky to break 20 points. They barely mustered 23 against a depleted Green Bay defense. Don't blame the cold weather for lack of offensive production. This will be a tight game that will likely come down to the final minutes. No blow out here. CAR-17  SF-14

jacobhaight1678
jacobhaight1678

@CarolCowan@jacobhaight1678Thats your great insight oh btw heres what your Panthers managed against us offensively last game.


Rushing:
WIlliams 46yds
Stewar 41yds
Newton 15yds
Tolbert 7yds

Passing:
Newton: 16/32 169yds 0TDs 1INT

JohnAlport1
JohnAlport1

@rmcginnis456@JoeySaskatoonLongo  

30 pass attempts.  16 completions, 227 yds, 1 INT, 1 TD.  Sacked exactly 3 times.   Hurried 5 times.  Best QB running you'll ever see.  Took over tied 20-20 with 5:06 left and ran the PERFECT DRIVE to a game-winning field goal at the buzzer.  You are proof that there's somebody to complain about anything.

jacobhaight1678
jacobhaight1678

@scoutxx@Richard--RamirezSo Denver just just took that first home game off right? No SD exploits Denver's biggest problem; which is they are way to pass heavy they really on passing the 40+ times a game, having a high amount of possessions, and Peyton to not only play a good game but call a good game. Denver needs a better defense and needs to relly on running the ball more. If they don't improve in these areas it won't matter id they make it to the Super Bowl a team like Seattle, SF, or Carolina will destroy them.

anon76
anon76

@RS1022 


I love the line of thinking people are going with here.  SD "barely" lost in SD (I was at that game too, and agree with your assessment 100%), while SD "had Denver's number" in the Denver game.  What everyone seems to fail to notice is that Denver beat SD by more points in SD.

JesseLow
JesseLow

@mvd What you are not considering is the fact that you are absolutely correct about one thing. New Orleans will probably shut Lynch down again like last time they played in the clink and we still blew them out. What you are not considering is that there is a ready and eager Percy Harvin to account for this time around as well. Not to mention that we have depth back in the secondary with Thurmond back of suspension. Harvin is going to draw allot of attention and he cannot be ignored. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Chuckster
Chuckster

@mvd@Chuckster  Did we forget Cam's last outing against SF  (16-32 169 INT   Rushing 8/15 yds ) ???  Did we forget NO's last trip to Seattle??    SD - Denver split during the season...pick em game.  SD may have won 4 straight but that's coming off losing 4 of 5...streaky team.   As for NE, you just never know and I like the way Luck matured this weekend.   


Lastly the only thing NE is lifting, is Tommy's chin off the ground after they lose.

johnvas49
johnvas49

@pantherfan1117 @Chuckster I blame the two non-calls against Crabtree in the first quarter which would have probably resulted in two TDs instead of two fields goals.  Rodgers would have been running for his life the rest of the game and it probably would have been a blow-out.  Refs kept Green Bay in the game until they could finally get things going...

Chuckster
Chuckster

@pantherfan1117@ChucksterNah..... and having played in frigid temps, I KNOW the cold was a HUGE factor.  Don't have to believe me...ask the players.  That and a healthy Rodgers is the only reason that game was close.  


As a Panther fan I would expect you to go with your team.  I would.  But, don't see them advancing to the NFC Championship.

RileyMerino
RileyMerino

pmk1790 there goes your credibility because in fact, the Broncos beat the Chargers in the first game of the year in Qualcomm, you only saw the one where the Broncos lost, because everybody picks on them that they aren't perfect whenever they do. They are division rivals, and they play twice a year, they split the series 1-1 this year. 

mvd
mvd

@Chuckster@mvdSeems you like to quote only the stats that you like, not all.  You forgot last time Colts got blasted by the Pats 59-24?  Now dont tell me the teams have moved on and lots of changes since then.  That can be said about any match on a given Sunday.  Point I was trying to make is, in re-match, both teams adjust and fine tune their games and they watch how their opponent played their last game.  If you were a coach, would you not ensure Kap does not repeat what he did against Packers?  NO learned their lesson when Hawkes beat them bad and adjusted their game against Philly to ensure they dont run on them and are better prepared now than before. If someone punched you in the mouth, next time, you are going to expect them to punch you again and be prepared to dodge him and attack such that you counter punch and break his jaw for a change.  Revenge games are fun.  Indy does not play well in cold weather, even under Manning, they lost a few to the Pats. Yes, they did win too but overall, it is a fact that most indoor teams hate playing in cold weather outside. Catching is so difficult even after you throw well and thats where the running game kicks in and burn the clock. No KC repeat for Indy.

Chuckster
Chuckster

@johnvas49@pantherfan1117@Chuckster   Oh you have GOT to be kidding.  Holding, PI, even false starts were flying on both sides.  Word was to "let them play and shorten the game".  It was going both ways.