NFL Divisional Round Predictions

Michael Peters '16 and David Loughran '16, Managing Editor and Sports Section Editor

Well, that was unexpected. Though David went 4-0 with his picks in last week’s wild card round, I don’t think either of us could’ve predicted how those games played out. The Chiefs blew out the Texans in their home stadium by a score of 30-0, the Bengals made a late comeback against the Steelers (only to give it up with a couple of personal foul penalties), the Seahawks held on due to a missed 27-yard field goal in a one-point game, and the Packers overcame an early deficit and used Aaron Rodgers’ resurgence to move into a matchup with the Cardinals.

Without further ado, here are our predictions for this week.

Saturday, January 16:

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots (4:35 PM)

MIKE: I think this will be a very close game. The Patriots have one of the best quarterbacks and one of the best coaches in NFL history at their disposal, and they’re playing at home after a bye week. However, the Chiefs have won 11 consecutive games, and their defense is suffocating, as demonstrated last week. The Pats have lost 4 of 6, and are still banged up even though they have gotten some key players back from injury. Though the Chiefs have some stars who are questionable to play (Jeremy Maclin, Justin Houston, Tamba Hali), I think that they are the hottest team in the NFL right now. Although Mr. Bickford won’t speak to me for a week, I’m picking the CHIEFS to beat his Patriots, 24-21, and advance to the AFC Championship Game.

DAVID: In the last two weeks of the season, the Patriots lost both games to divisional opponents, and limped into their first round bye. On the other hand, the Chiefs are on an ELEVEN GAME WINNING STREAK, and are coming off of a blow-out win against the Houston Texans in the Wildcard Round. The extra week of rest last week should help the Patriots, who will be getting many players back from injury, including Tom Brady’s favorite target Julian Edelman. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, star wide receiver and engine to their offense Jeremy Maclin suffered a high-ankle sprain in the victory, and if he plays, he will be less than 100%. This may be a close game, but the Patriots are too good at home, and will come out on top. PATRIOTS 32-24

Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals (8:15 PM)

MIKE: Aaron Rodgers played like his old self last week, despite having a disappointing second half of the season. I’m going to attribute that less to the Packers’ execution and more to the mediocrity of the Washington Redskins, especially their secondary. The Cardinals completely dominated the Packers a few weeks ago in the same stadium, and I expect them to have another good game, especially coming off of a bye week with their players rested. The Packers defense gave up over 300 yards to Kirk Cousins last week, so there is no reason why Carson Palmer (with the aid of better receivers and a dynamic running back in David Johnson) shouldn’t be able to exploit the Packers this week. I have the CARDINALS beating the Packers, 42-24.

DAVID: This will be the second meeting between these two teams this season. In their first match-up, the Arizona Cardinals trounced the Green Bay Packers 38-8. Arizona’s defense terrorized Aaron Rodgers the whole game, and completely shut down the pack-attack. The Packers were not able to stop the number one ranked offense in the NFL at all in that game, and I believe that this game will be much of the same. Arizona’s defense will have a field day against the Packer’s offensive line, and the Packers Defense will not be able to shut down Carson Palmer and the Cardinals high-powered offense. CARDINALS 35-17

Sunday, January 17:

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers (1:05 PM)

MIKE: I think that this will be the best game of the weekend. The Panthers defeated the Seahawks in Seattle in a close game earlier this year, but a lot of things have changed since then. The Seahawks have stepped up their game in the second half of the season, and should get Marshawn Lynch back this week. On the other side, the Panthers should get Jonathan Stewart back from his injury, though like Lynch, his carries could be limited. I think that the Seahawks will do a good job of limiting the opposing running backs (like they’ve done so often this year), so it will come down to whether Cam Newton can carry his team. I’ll take Russell Wilson and the Legion of Boom, and I have the SEAHAWKS beating the Panthers, 27-24.

DAVID: These teams last met in week six, where the Carolina Panthers pulled out a last second win against the Seahawks in Seattle. This game will be played in Carolina, and I’m sure the Seahawks would like to repay the Panthers by sending them packing. It won’t be easy at all however. The Carolina Panthers finished the season with fifteen wins and only one loss. And, the Seahawks are coming off of a tough fought game against the Vikings where the temperatures reached a balmy MINUS six degrees. And it was a game they most likely should have lost, as Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed a chip shot field goal that would have sent the Vikings on. The match-up to watch in this game will be Seattle’s defensive backs against Carolina’s tight ends, specifically Greg Olsen. Seattle does not match-up well against tight ends, and Carolina have a lot of success throwing to their tight ends. I like the Panthers to come out on top in this game. PANTHERS 30-27

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (4:40 PM)

MIKE: Peyton Manning is back, the Broncos are at home, and the three best offensive weapons for the Steelers are questionable. Ben Roethlisberger has an upper body injury, so even if he plays, it will affect his passes. It will hurt even more if, as expected, primary target Antonio Brown isn’t able to play. In addition, running back DeAngelo Williams might have to sit out for the second straight week. Things just don’t seem like they’ll go the Steelers’ way. Oh, and the Denver defense is the best in the NFL. Needless to say, I’m going with the BRONCOS over the Steelers, 31-17.

DAVID: Last time these two teams met, the Broncos let the lead get away from them, and the Steelers were able to pull out a 34-27 victory at home. This time, the game will be played in Denver, and the Broncos will be looking for revenge. What is different this time around is that the Steelers are very banged up, as the status of DeAngelo Williams (RB), Ben Roethlisberger (QB), and Antonio Brown (WR) are all up in the air. In addition, Peyton Manning is back at the helm for the Broncos, instead of Brock Osweiler. Ultimately what this game will come down to is will the Steelers be able to stop the run and overcome some of the injuries sustained. I believe that won’t happen, as I believe that the Broncos will be able to run the ball effectively, and the injuries will be too much to overcome for the Steelers. BRONCOS 31-20


David: 4-0

Mike 3-1