Suffolk Voice NFL divisional round predictions
Seattle, Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Kansas City all have one thing in common: they moved one game closer to the Super Bowl. For New England, Denver, Carolina and Arizona the playoffs start this weekend in the Divisional round. Here is Sports Editor Christopher Frangolini and Assistant Editor Jake Mackey’s picks…
Saturday, January 16th
Kansas City (12-5) at New England (12-4), 4:35 PM
Frangolini: The last time these two teams met (week four, 2014), Kansas City blew out the Patriots, 41-14. I know that’s still on the back of everyone’s mind whether playing or cheering for New England, but this is still the worst possible match up for the Patriots. Alex Smith and a red-hot Chiefs team have now won 11 straight games after their 30-0 shutout over Houston a week ago. At the very least, the Patriots will get some reinforcements from Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and a couple others who will be back after a few weeks on the injury report. I think this game remains close, but the Patriots will do something they haven’t done in nearly a month: score 30+ points. New England wins 33-27.
Mackey: The hottest team in football right now is the Kansas City Chiefs, having won 11 straight games, and they are traveling this weekend to Foxborough, Massachusetts to take on the Patriots who have lost four of their last six games. The Chiefs have a great defense with a vast amount of talent in the front seven and in the secondary. It would appear that Kansas City’s cornerbacks Sean Smith and Marcus Peters would be able to match up well with Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Not the case, both Peters and Smith are over six feet tall which historically would give the advantage to the small shifty receivers. That is how the Patriots will have success in this game by running crossing routes to Edelman and Amendola, and having James White get out in space against Chiefs linebackers. The Patriots offense won’t be scoring 30 points, but their defense shouldn’t have too much of a problem with the Alex Smith-led offense. Take out Travis Kelce and then make Jeremy Maclin beat you with a high ankle sprain. New England wins 23-16.
Green Bay (11-6) at Arizona (13-3), 8:15 PM
Frangolini: The Pack looked pretty good last week after coming back from an 11-0 deficit, on the road, against Washington. The Arizona Cardinals are no Washington and if they jump ahead they will keep piling on. Rodgers’ already depleted offense could be without another weapon in Davante Adams who sprained his MCL. There is no way the Packers defense can slow down Carson Palmer and the second best scoring offense in the NFL and slim to no chance the offense can keep them in the game. Arizona wins 33-17.
Mackey: The Green Bay Packers seemed to, “flip the switch” last week against the Washington Redskins after a terrible second half of the season. Unfortunately, this Saturday they will be matched up against the best team in the National Football League, in the Arizona Cardinals. The Pack will put up a good fight in this game, but in the end Arizona’s fire power on offense and their ability to get after you on defense will be too much for Green Bay’s one dimensional offense. Arizona wins 28-20.
Sunday, January 17th
Seattle (11-6) at Carolina (15-1), 1:05 PM
Frangolini: This is the match up I am most excited for and this is the game that tells us if the Panthers are for real. They cruised through the regular season, almost going perfect. For Seattle they are already playing with house money. First off, they had quite a few beneficial calls that got them into the postseason and last week Blair Walsh forgot how to kick a field goal. They are still the most dangerous team and could easily wind up getting back to the Super Bowl for the third-straight year. Carolina wins 27-23.
Mackey: In a rematch of last season’s divisional round match up, the Seattle Seahawks will match up with the Carolina Panthers. However, this time the Seahawks won’t be in the friendly confines of Century Link Field with the, “12th man” behind them. They will be playing across the country in Charlotte, North Carolina against the front runner for league MVP, Cam Newton. Many think that Seattle will roll through the playoffs because of their experience. I was in that crowd, but after seeing how their highly potent offense was shut down in Minnesota I am not as confident. Also, Carolina just continues to amaze as Cam Newton turns water into wine on offense. Carolina wins 28-14.
Pittsburgh (11-6) at Denver (12-4), 4:40 PM
Frangolini: Denver got the match up they wanted and it couldn’t be a better “welcome back game” for Peyton Manning. Pittsburg is beat up and might not have Antonio Brown, DeAngelo Williams, and big Ben available for the game. I still think Brock Osweiler gives Denver the best shot to win long-term in the playoffs, but Manning will lead Denver on Sunday. Denver wins 27-17.
Mackey: Many going into the postseason thought that Pittsburgh would be able to go into Denver under any circumstances and win with their, “unstoppable” offense. Nevertheless, now their offense is beat to a pulp. DeAngelo Williams is hurt, Antonio Brown is in the concussion protocol, and Ben Roethlisberger is all sorts of banged up with sprained joints in his shoulder. It will be tough to put up points against the best defense in the NFL in the toughest place to play in the NFL. Also Peyton Manning has about two months of rest, and he should be able to make enough plays and throws with his playmaker receivers to win the game. Denver wins 27-17.