Indianapolis was the only road winner on Divisional Weekend; how long can they keep it going? (

After the Divisional Round, the Pats and Pack had to claw for a victory, while the Colts and Hawks had a relatively easy time. Seattle became the first defending champ to win a playoff game the next season in a decade, which sets up two League Championships in dangerous home-field advantage environments.

But for now, we’re halfway through our Pick ‘Em for the postseason. Thanks to most of the winner picks being alike, not too much ground was gained, but TD and yardage totals did shift some things around. With two rounds left, it’s still a very close contest that’s anyone’s game.

So with that, updated results and totals are below. And be sure to come back next Sunday for the League Championship Round. Continue reading 2014-2015 NFL Playoffs Expert Picks: Divisional Round Results »

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Danny Amendola celebrates with his teammates after catching a 51 yard touchdown pass from Julian Edelman. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

What an incredible game we all witnessed Saturday night. From start to finish, as a fan, you didn’t have a second to catch your breath. Every snap mattered and in the end it was a couple key plays that turned the tide of the game. The Ravens have been one of the few teams that has been able to consistently challenge the Patriots and you knew things were going to be no different Saturday night. Joe Flacco has become a monster in the postseason, and their defense has always had the ability to disrupt Tom Brady. While Flacco did show up to play, with the exception of his two interceptions, the pass rush was almost non-existent. Brady had time which allowed him to have a terrific game, including a classic Tom Brady game-winning, fourth quarter drive. 

- This is the type of game that all the purists who claim “you need to run the football to win in January,” absolutely hate. The Patriots had no running game at all. As a team they had a total of 14 yards on 13 carries. Brady’s touchdown scramble in the first was the most impressive run they had all game, and it didn’t matter. The Ravens strength is in their front seven. Their run defense is terrific, but where they are weak is their secondary. With an incredible game from the Patriots offensive line, Brady was able to pick apart the weak Ravens secondary.

Continue reading Notes and Observations Divisional Playoffs: Patriots Advance to Fourth Straight AFC Championship, Beat Ravens 35-31 »

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Tom Brady stamped the Patriots' ticket to the AFC Championship game. Should he want to play the Colts or the Broncos? (Photo: Greg M. Cooper, USA TODAY Sports)

After a rousing, back-and-forth, come-from-behind victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, the New England Patriots will host next week’s AFC Championship for the right to play in Super Bowl XLIV.

With their place in the AFC title game decided, eyes turn westward this afternoon for the other game to decide who will play the Patriots in Foxborough. Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts will play Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos shortly, but which of the two teams do the Patriots want to play?

Continue reading Colts or Broncos: Should the Patriots Care Who They Play in AFC Championship? »

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Coach Belichick and the Patriots have had problems with Baltimore in their postseason career; will they exorcise that demon this time around? ("Family Guy," '3 Acts of God,' 3/16/2014)

With the Divisional Round here, it’s time for the top teams of the season to play. New England and Seattle each face hungry teams, Peyton Manning faces his replacement again and Dallas faces Green Bay in an Ice Bowl rematch. All four games should be very hard-fought and competitive.

On our panel, three of the four contests were picked unanimously, while the fourth was much closer in the selections. And while Seattle and Carolina projects to be a tactical, defensive game, the others should see the ball aired out more.

As before:

  • Successfully picking the winner of each game is worth two points.
  • Picking the total number of touchdowns scored by both teams COMBINED in each game is worth one point if guessed to within one, or two points if guessed exactly right.
  • Picking the total number of yards thrown in each game by WHICHEVER quarterback throws the most is worth one point if guessed to within 50, or two points if guessed to within 10, or five points if guessed exactly right.

So with that, picks are below, and check back Sunday night for the results. Continue reading 2014-2015 NFL Playoffs Expert Picks: Divisional Round »

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When the Ravens travel to New England on Saturday for a Divisional Playoff matchup, there will be several key battles the Patriots will have to win. One of the most critical will be the Patriots offensive line versus the Baltimore defensive line. In the past, the Ravens have shown a unique ability to harass Tom Brady and force him into mistakes or short offensive series. They have also consistently been able to get pressure against any team. This season has been no different for the Ravens and Saturday will be tough for the Patriots up front.

In 17 games (16 regular season, one playoff) this season, the Ravens have accumulated 54 sacks total which comes out to roughly three per game. In an eight game stretch in the middle of the season, the Patriots only gave up four sacks total. However, they gave up that many in the first half of their week 16 game against the Jets and had some issues in week 17 against Buffalo before resting their starters. Dan Connolly has missed time late in the season which has caused reshuffling and the Patriots will hope that he is fully healthy for Saturday. Nate Solder also struggled the last two games and Sebastian Vollmer was inactive for the final game although that seemed more precautionary than anything else. Continue reading Baltimore Defensive Front Could Sabotage Patriots »

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Several times this season I have written about the impact that a healthy Rob Gronkowski can make in a game. It is no secret that he is the league’s most dominant tight end and one of the premier offensive weapons in football. He is virtually uncoverable and will provide the Patriots with a distinct advantage this weekend. The Patriots have played the Ravens three times in the postseason since 2009. In those three games, they have had Gronkowski for a total of less than three quarters. He was not on the roster for the 2009 game, injured in the third quarter of the 2011 game, and missed the entirety of the 2012 game due to injury.

If Gronkowski can be healthy for the entire game Saturday, he can dramatically affect the outcome. Continue reading Rob Gronkowski Could Prove a Nightmare for Ravens »

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One of the surprises of the NFL season was the emergence of Ravens running back Justin Forsett. Forsett, who had bounced around several teams before landing in Baltimore, saw his chance early in the season in the aftermath of the Ray Rice domestic violence situation. Forsett seized the moment, running for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns. He also averaged 5.4 yards per carry, which was good for one of the best marks in the league. His mix of power and speed as well as vision makes him difficult for the Patriots to defend. The Ravens offensive line has also done a good job opening holes for him and they show no signs of slowing down.

Most games are won and lost in the trenches and this week’s game will put the play of the Patriots’ defensive line into even greater focus than normal. If the Patriots allow Forsett to run as he has throughout the season they will have a tough time getting off the field, and it will open things up for the Ravens passing attack. There are two players above the rest that will need to play well for the Patriots to slow Forsett down: Vince Wilfork and Sealver Siliga.

Wilfork has been the anchor of the Patriots defense for a decade and the Patriots will need all of his 6’2” 325 pound frame to clog the middle of the line. Siliga is also 6’2” and hovering around 325 pounds next to Wilfork. Siliga missed eight games while on the Injured Reserve/Return list but has been healthy for the last four games. In the nine games that Siliga missed, the Patriots gave up an average of 122 rushing yards per game. That number nose-dived to 87 yards per game in the month of December once Siliga returned to action. Siliga and Wilfork together will need to push the middle of Baltimore’s offensive line back and come up with tackles for losses or force the Ravens to bounce runs outside. This will also mean Rob Ninkovich, Akeem Ayers, Chandler Jones, and Dont’a Hightower will need to be stout outside and in the second level.

The Patriots cannot miss tackles and allow Forsett to gain yards after contact. Forsett has to be met at the line of scrimmage and forced to move around before hitting the hole. If the Patriots can accomplish this, it will go a long way towards limiting his effectiveness. Alan Branch could also factor into stopping Forsett as well as being a key rusher up the middle. Wilfork and Siliga will not be able to play every snap so Branch will have to perform when he is called upon. Forcing the Ravens to be a one-dimensional passing team will allow the Patriots vaunted secondary to shine. This is the first postseason in nearly a decade that the Patriots will have a distinct advantage in the secondary against nearly any team they will play. However, if they do not stop Forsett, that advantage will not be as useful.

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