NFL Playoff Picture: Predicting Winners for Second Weekend of Postseason

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIJanuary 7, 2013

The first weekend of the NFL playoffs left a lot to be desired. The games were boring by postseason standards, but the second weekend should bring more excitement.

The pretenders have been eliminated, and hopefully we'll be treated to a classic like the San Francisco 49ers-New Orleans Saints epic from the 2012 NFL playoffs.

Here's a look at the four matchups and my predictions for the games that will determine the pairings for the conference championships.


NFC Playoffs


Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

No team is playing better than the Seahawks. I could say they wouldn't have defeated the Washington Redskins with a healthy Robert Griffin III, but that wouldn't be giving this team enough credit.

They have been doubted long enough.

Did they benefit from playing RGIII while he was less than 100 percent? Absolutely, but the offense still made big plays and overcame a 14-point deficit.

They are set to take on a Falcons team with an explosive offense that is probably even more disrespected than the Seahawks.

The Falcons are 13-3, but early on the Dirty Birds were only two-point favorites over the Seahawks, per Scores and Odds. This game will really test the Seahawks' excellent secondary.

The Falcons have three significant weapons in the passing game in Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez. The Redskins didn't bring weapons like that to the table. 

That said, the Falcons don't generate a pass rush.

They were only 28th in the NFL in sacks during the regular season and 21st in the league against the run. The way the Seahawks offense is functioning, the Falcons won't be able to contain it.

The Seahawks are scoring 31 points per game in their seven-game win streak. I see them winning another playoff game on the road.

Prediction: Seahawks 31, Falcons 21


Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Colin Kaepernick doesn't have a ton of experience, but he's a heck of a lot better than Joe Webb. Frank Gore isn't exactly Adrian Peterson, but he's still a formidable running back in a rushing offense that ranked fourth in the NFL in 2012.

I make those points to convey the huge step-up in competition the Packers will encounter from the Niners, when compared to the Minnesota Vikings team the Pack beat on Saturday.

Couple the aforementioned factors with the pass rush the Niners will launch at Green Bay's shaky offensive line, and this becomes a game the Packers aren't likely to win.

Did I mention that the Niners knocked off the Packers 30-22 in the season opener? Yes, all signs point to another Niners win, which could be a warning sign for Niners-backers. 

This would normally cause me to give the Packers more of a chance, but not in this case.

The Packers' offensive line isn't capable of protecting Aaron Rodgers enough, or paving a way for a mediocre running game.

Prediction: 49ers 20, Packers 13


AFC Playoffs


Houston Texans at New England Patriots

After destroying the Texans 42-14 on December 10, the Patriots own a huge psychological edge coming into this game. The loss sent the Texans on a downward spiral that saw them lose three of their last four games in the regular season.

They finally woke up in time for the playoffs, as they shut down Andy Dalton for most of Saturday's Wild Card Game.

It was a nice win, but Tom Brady is a shade better than Dalton. The Texans defense has been reeling for weeks. They allowed 27.5 points per game in the final four regular-season games.

The 13 points they held the Bengals to was a departure from what had become the norm. This team still misses Brian Cushing terribly on the second level.

When they play the Patriots, their problems in the linebacking corps will be exposed.

To compound issues, the AFC divisional playoff game takes place at Foxboro Stadium, the site of Houston's December 10 landslide loss. To pile on even more, the Pats are 10-2 at home in the postseason during Brady's career.

The final deficit may not be 28 points, but the Patriots will still win.

Prediction: Patriots 35, Texans 20


Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

The Broncos beat only two teams all season with a winning record, but one of them was the Ravens. On December 17, they dismantled the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, 34-17.

The Ravens played terribly in that game, and without the passion that is normally associated with Ravens football. That was especially the case on the defensive end.

Ray Lewis wasn't healthy for that game, but he will be on the field for the rematch. Will it make a difference in the outcome?

I say yes, but not enough to change the bottom line.

The Colts didn't beat the Ravens on Sunday, but they did gash Baltimore's defense for 152 yards on the ground. Despite Lewis' presence, the Ravens still couldn't stop the run consistently.

If you can't do that against the Broncos, you're only giving Peyton Manning another weapon in the form of the play-action pass.

Baltimore's offense proved it could rise to the occasion against the Colts. Joe Flacco (282 passing yards, two touchdowns), Anquan Boldin (five receptions for 145 yards and a touchdown) and Bernard Pierce (13 rushes for 103 yards) all played well, but the Ravens can't beat the Broncos in a high-scoring game.

We're headed for another Manning vs. Brady playoff clash in the AFC Championship Game.

Prediction: Broncos 35, Ravens 24


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