Saturday Divisional playoff preview
I’m not sure if I’m hot or lucky, but no matter, I’ll take either. In the last week of the regular season, I went 3-1 against the spread and did the same last week for the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Today, we have at least one interesting game with Baltimore traveling to New England. The other game is between NFC South winner Carolina and NFC West leader Seattle, and many people feel this game could get ugly.
Baltimore (+7) at New England
If the forecast is accurate, weather should play a role in this game. At kickoff, the temperature should be in the low teens with light wind. There is a very little chance of any snow. That said, Baltimore has been the biggest nemesis New England has had come playoff time. The Ravens have beaten the Pats in two of their last three playoff meetings. These two teams play each other like they are divisional rivals.
While Baltimore can rush the passer and stop the run, they have a weak secondary and with Rob Gronkowski healthy, that could prove costly. Still, Baltimore's defensive coordinator has a way of coming up with great game plans versus Tom Brady. Gronk and Tom Brady are well rested as Gronk did not play in the season finale and Brady played about a half. New England isn’t getting any younger, and this could well be Brady’s last chance to get another ring.
Joe Flacco has a way of coming up big in the playoffs. Last week he was 18 of 29 for 259 yards and two touchdowns in leading the Ravens to a 13-point win in Pittsburgh. I look for a similar game today. While I feel New England will win the game, it will be close and the Ravens will cover. Take the points!
Carolina (+11.5) at Seattle
Many feel Carolina will get blown out in this game, I’m not so sure. Yes, the Panthers are lucky to be in the playoffs with a 7-8-1 regular season record, but they were still able to easily beat an injury-riddled Arizona team in the Wild Card round. Cam Newton plays well in the playoffs, and the Carolina defense even with Star Lotulelei out will be tough. Seattle, on the other hand, is healthy. Only one player is listed as being out and that is safety Jeron Johnson. Tight end Tony Moeaki is listed as questionable with a calf strain.
We all know that it is very difficult for the visitors to win in Seattle. The Seahawks went 7-1 at home this year and their average margin of victory was better than 13 points per game. Still this is the playoffs, and games are a bit tougher. Last year in the playoffs, the Seahawks won their home games by 8 and 6 points respectively on their way to the Super Bowl.
While there is a good chance of rain early in the day, the weather should be fairly mild come kickoff with the temperature in the mid 40’s. Like with the Baltimore – New England game, I feel the home team will win, but the visitors will cover. I know I’m against conventional thinking, but I think Seattle will not win by more than 10. Take the points.
Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe