NFL Divisional Round Predictions: As Certain As North Carolina Going Undefeated

Evan KulhawikContributor IJanuary 9, 2009

Picking games in the NFL postseason is as easy as eating soup with chopsticks. In the NFL, where teams are usually fairly evenly-matched, games can come down to one or two key plays. That is why it is so tough to predict what will happen.

However, I will try to do just that and tell you who will win this weekend.

Baltimore Ravens (11-5) @ Tennessee Titans (13-3)

I think this is the game where the underdog has the best chance of winning. I don't see how the Titans will be able to score very much against the stout defensive unit of the Ravens.

Ed Reed has been a man possessed the past few weeks, and the linebacking corps led by Ray Lewis is as good as anyone stopping the run. The Titans offense relies heavily on the running game, and if the Ravens can bottle up Chris Johnson and "eat up" LenDale White (get it?), then the Titans will struggle mightily to score.

Kerry Collins cannot take apart the stellar Ravens' secondary without the aid of some running game.

On the other side of the coin, it should also be difficult for the Ravens to score. The Titans' defense is also spectacular, and they will certainly try to bottle up the run and force rookie Joe Flacco to beat them.

However, the injuries to Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch should affect their play.

Haynesworth has already stated he will need to wear a brace, so his mobility will not be 100 percent. The trio of Willis McGahee, Le'Ron McClain, and Ray Rice is very formidable, and usually one of them is due for a big day.

I expect this one to be very low-scoring, but I think the Ravens' offense is better than that of the Titans. Derrick Mason is a legitimate pass-catching threat, whereas the Titans do not really have anyone that can take over a game catching passes. I think the Ravens pull this one out, but barely.

Prediction: Ravens 17, Titans 13

Arizona Cardinals (9-7) @ Carolina Panthers (12-4)

If the Cardinals had to play in the Meadowlands, they would have no chance. The cold weather and winds there would make their high-octane passing game nearly obsolete.

However, this one is being played in North Carolina, where the weather should not be too bad. This one makes me a little nervous, as the Cardinals come into this one with no pressure. They have everything to play for and nothing to lose, and that is always a scary thing for the opponent.

However, the Panthers are clearly the better team. Their running game is extremely solid, and DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart should be able to have big days. And as good as Larry Fitzgerald is for the Cardinals, Steve Smith is every bit as good for the Panthers.

John Fox is a good coach and will be prepared to stop the Cardinals' passing game. He will force the Cardinals to move the ball some on the ground, which they cannot do.

The Panthers, however, have a very well-balanced offense. They can move it by either running the ball (usually how they do it), or by passing (because Steve Smith is a monster).

I do like Kurt Warner better than Jake Delhomme, but it's not always about the quarterback. Delhomme's supporting cast is much better than that of Warner. I think the Cardinals will keep it close for a little while, but the Panthers will eventually pull away with their superior running attack.

Prediction: Panthers 27, Cardinals 20

Philadelphia Eagles (9-6-1) @ New York Giants (12-4)

Why are the Eagles being picked to win this game so much? And why are the Giants (again) getting no respect? They won the Super Bowl last year and were predicted to not make the playoffs this year.


Now they are the No. 1 seed in the NFC, are playing at home in the divisional round, and they are still supposed to lose? What do the Giants have to do to get the credit they deserve?

There is no denying that the Eagles are the hottest team in the NFL now that the Colts have been knocked out. However, the win in Minnesota was far from convincing. This was a Vikings team that could barely beat the Giants' backups in Week 17, and the Eagles could barely do anything on offense.

If it wasn't for Tarvaris Jackson's pathetic pick-six, that game might have come down to the last play.

The Giants did lose to Philadelphia in Week 14, but Brandon Jacobs was injured in the game. Through 10 carries in that one, he had 52 yards, a very good number. Jacobs is back, and assuming he makes it through the whole game he is the key to the Giants' offense. I see Jacobs getting about 20-25 carries for 100-110 yards, and grinding away at the Eagles' defense.

This game will probably be close, and it will probably come down to the quarterbacks in the fourth quarter. Donovan McNabb did not play well last week, and his numbers were inflated because of the long screen pass where he did nothing. Otherwise, McNabb was erratic and although he made some good throws, he was not consistent.

Eli Manning proved last year he can play mistake-free football in the playoffs, and this is going to be the difference in the game.

Prediction: Giants 27, Eagles 17

San Diego Chargers (8-8) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

The Chargers proved last week what many people thought all year long: They have enough talent to beat anybody. The win over the Colts was a statement win, as they took out the NFL's hottest team, led by the league MVP.

Even though San Diego unfairly got a home game, they still showed their potential in winning that game. This week, though, they have to travel to Pittsburgh and go up against arguably the NFL's best defense in the Steelers.

The weather for Sunday in Pittsburgh is supposed to be a high of 25 degrees and a few snow showers. This is a huge advantage for the Steelers, and makes their home-field advantage even more useful.

This weather will be a far cry from beautiful San Diego, and it will make the air attacks of both teams harder to get going. However, this is exactly what Pittsburgh wants.

The Steelers pride themselves on running the ball, and conversely, stopping the run. They are very physical and usually win the battles in the trenches. The Chargers can usually run the ball well, but LaDainian Tomlinson probably will not play this weekend.

I think Darren Sproles is very good, but his style is not physical. Sproles is a finesse runner, and the team that wins on Sunday is going to be the team that is more physical.

The Steelers should win this game, as their defense should dominate like it usually does. The Steelers will also have the home crowd behind them, and the Chargers are tired after an overtime win last week. The Steelers are rested and ready to go to battle on Sunday.

I think the Steelers control this game from the start and win comfortably.

Prediction: Steelers 24, Chargers 13