After a simply stunning willdcard weekend, the top seeds enter the fray as the NFL Divisional games get underway on Saturday night. We have the joint favourites for the Super Bowl, the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals, Tom Brady’s New England Patriots and the return of Peyton Manning for the Denver Broncos. Despite being on the ropes, they were joined last weekend by the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as the in form Kansas City Chiefs.
We now know half of the conference championship line up. The Patriots and a fully fit Gronk dealt with the Chiefs, before an all time classic playoff game in the desert. The Arizona Cardinals coming out on top in over time after another Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary.
Tonight, we’ll complete the lineup.
Seahawks at Panthers
Similar to the Packers, the Seahawks probably shouldn’t be here either. Blair Walsh forgetting how to kick a football straight saw Seattle escape from Minnesota with the win. Coming up against a likely MVP winning quarterback this week sees the best defence in the NFL face a much sterner test.
The two franchises are remarkably similar. The Seahawks lead the NFL in scoring defense with the Panthers ranking five places below. Carolina leads the league in turnover differential while Seattle are tied for fifth. Both rank in the top three in rushing yards, while both have a star at quarterback. When Carolina played at Seattle earlier this season, the Panthers’ 135 rushing yards was the highest rushing total for any Seahawks opponent this season.
The main difference between the two teams? The Seahawks have been here, done it before and got the Super Bowl rings. The unstoppable Panthers were made look very ordinary by a Falcons side, who limited them to 13 points. Round 2 of SuperCam against the Legion of Boom? Seattle win at. Expect to see Cam dancing after he scores a touchdown though at, and for BEAST MODE to run wild – Marshawn Lynch anytime touchdown scorer. The Hawks to set up a mouthwatering match against Larry Fitzgerald and company
Steelers at Broncos
And he’s going to win.
Peyton Manning starts for the first time since week 9, as he looks to lead the Denver Bronco’s to their eighth conference championship, and third Super Bowl. Up until Saturday morning, I was confident this game would be close. But Antonio Brown has been ruled out for the Steelers, and Ben Roethlisberger is rated as questionable. That changes everything.
Straight away, the Steelers are weakened regardless if Ben makes it. He’s lost his favourite target. Martavis Bryant might believe he’s the greatest wide reciever of all time after his ‘catch’ against the Bengals, but they’re the third team that you can argue shouldn’t be playing this Sunday. If it hadn’t been for first Vontaze Burflict and then Pacman Jones giving away more penalties than Tom Brady at a balloon party, it’d be the Bengals in their spot. The subsequent 30 yards gave Chris Boswell an easy three points and the Steelers the win.
Pittsburgh are the only team to reach 30 points against Denver and posted the highest yardage total of the season against the Broncos with 377 in a 34-27 victory in December. DeAngelo Williams is out as well as Brown, which means the third-ranked offense looks to be well short on weapons against the second best defence in the NFL.
The Broncos have won eight of the last 11 meetings with the Steelers in Denver, including a 29-23 overtime victory in a wild-card game in 2012. With a weakened Steelers offence against an almost 100% Broncos D, back the home side to advance, and for them to win with under 41 match points at