Insiders

NFL Divisional Round Playoff Picks

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After a perfect 4-0 weekend in the Wildcard Round, we look to take our good fortune to the Divisional Round.  Find out who we like in each of the four games.

Kansas City vs. New England

What we know: Tom Brady is 14-3 at home in the postseason.

Does it matter here?

Certainly the Chiefs would rather be playing in Arrowhead Stadium than at Foxborough, but that won’t be the reason they lose the football game.  With a hobbled Jeremy Maclin, the Chiefs will only have one legitimate weapon in the passing game with tight end Travis Kelce.  Nobody’s better at taking away your best option than Belichick and company.

The Patriots have all of their offensive weapons back and even though Rob Gronkowski is banged up, Brady will have a full complement of people to throw to and the quick passing game will nullify the Kansas City pass rush.

Alex Smith doesn’t have the team around him to get into a shootout with Brady.  Therefore…

Score prediction:  Patriots 31, Chiefs 13. 

Green Bay vs. Arizona

What we know:  The Cardinals beat up the Packers, 38-8 a few weeks ago.  

Does it matter here?

Since the game was so recent, not a lot has changed since then.  The biggest difference will be in the Cardinals secondary, where Tyrann Mathieu tore his ACL late in the season.  Mathieu was arguably the best safety in football this season and the Cards secondary will miss him.

The Packers wide receivers have had major issues getting open which is leaving the offensive line, with all of its injuries, susceptible to getting Aaron Rodgers hit.  Defensively, it’s going to be difficult for the Packers to shut down all of the numerous weapons Carson Palmer has at his disposal.

When Rodgers is under center you have a chance to beat anyone, anywhere.  Unfortunately, the Packers have little more than a chance against a superior and better coached and well rested Arizona Cardinals team.

Score prediction:  Cardinals 27, Packers 21. 

Seattle vs. Carolina

What we know: The Panthers beat the Seahawks in Week 5 up in Seattle.

Does that matter? 

The NFL is a long season and teams are different from one week to the next, and especially different from a few months ago.  Aside from last week’s weather-debacle in Minnesota, the Seahawks offense has been on fire.  Russell Wilson led the NFL in passer rating and although it is a somewhat skewed stat, he’s played at an elite level down the stretch.

Carolina has been pretty much the same team that stream-rolled through the AFC all year long and they have Jonathan Stewart back and healthy for Sunday’s game.  The Panthers haven’t played a playoff team in nine weeks and it’s possible that they’ve been “battle softened.”  This figures to be the best game of the weekend.

Score prediction:  Seahawks 20, Panthers 17. 

Pittsburgh vs. Denver

What we know:  The Steelers need Ben Roethlisberger to be completely healthy to win this game.

Does that matter?

The Broncos have not only the best defense left in the playoffs, but the best defense in the NFL.  If Roethlisberger is compromised as he was at the end of the Cincinnati game, the Steelers will be one-dimensional.  That single dimension doesn’t include DeAngelo Williams or Antonio Brown.

Working in the Steelers favor will be the Broncos quarterback situation.  Peyton Manning is starting and he is on his last leg (arm, neck).  Manning has saved his worst football for the postseason and if Pittsburgh can find a way to score early, they can take Denver out of their game plan which will almost certainly involve having their future Hall of Fame quarterback do as little as possible and hand the ball off.

Even an injured Roethlisberger is better than Manning, but the difference is with the defense in the Mile High City.

Score prediction: Broncos 13, Steelers 10. 

Last week: 4-0

Postseason: 4-0


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.