NFL Playoff Predictions: Projecting Scores for Each Division-Round Matchup

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 06: Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens during a game against the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 6, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs provided fans with a little bit of excitement, but the Divisional Round is where the real fun begins. 

At this point in the playoffs only the contenders remain, and any one of the eight teams has a legitimate possibility of winning the Super Bowl. 

All of these games are certain to be highly contested battles, but unfortunately someone has to lose. This is how each of the four games should play out over the second weekend of the postseason.


Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos

In nine career games against the Baltimore Ravens, Peyton Manning has a 7-2 career record. The scary thought is that his current team might be better than any of his previous teams.

The Broncos are as complete of a team as there is in the NFL. The defense is ranked third in both passing and rushing yards allowed, and the offense has scored the second-most points in the league.

In addition, Knowshon Moreno's resurgence at running back has helped create more balance on offense.

Baltimore played with a lot of emotion in its first-round victory over the Indianapolis Colts, but it will be difficult for that to carry over in this tough road game. 

It will all come down to Joe Flacco. Although the inconsistent quarterback was great last week, he had a Total QBR of 0.4 out of 100 in the previous matchup with Denver less than a month ago. If he struggles early, the Ravens will not have a chance.

Prediction: Broncos 31, Ravens 21


Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers

A lot of games have been played since the 49ers were able to come into Green Bay and defeat the Packers in Week 1.

Most importantly, San Francisco will use inexperienced Colin Kaepernick at quarterback instead of Alex Smith, who threw two touchdowns against the Packers. 

While Kaepernick does give the team more big-play potential, he has looked shaky against teams that can bring pressure. Both the Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams were able to beat him with good pass-rushers who forced him to make quick decisions.

For all of the Packers' faults on defense, they are excellent at getting to the quarterback. Only three teams finished with more than their 47 sacks on the year.

With Justin Smith still not 100 percent, Green Bay will also have a more productive day offensively against this normally stout defense.

It will be close, but the Packers have the experience necessary to pull out a road victory.

Prediction: Packers 27, 49ers 24


Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots

The last time these teams played, it got ugly fast. New England got out to a 28-0 lead before eventually winning 42-14.

Houston has a solid team, but the Patriots simply match up perfectly against everything they try to do. 

Offensively, the Texans set up the passing game with a great rushing attack led by Arian Foster. They then utilize play-action passes to beat defenses over the top.

Unfortunately, New England is skilled at defending the run and is ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards, yards per attempt and rushing touchdowns.

Things should be even worse on defense as Tom Brady and the No. 1 scoring offense should be able to torch a unit that has struggled immensely down the stretch. 

The Texans should be able to do better than the regular season matchup, but not too much.

Prediction: Patriots 34, Texans 17


Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons

Despite the Falcons' regular-season success, they have not done well in the playoffs. The combination of Matt Ryan at quarterback and Mike Smith as a head coach is currently 0-3 in the postseason.

While they hope things change this year, the Falcons have simply not looked as good as their 13-3 record indicates.

The defense struggled all year, ranking No. 24 in the league in total yards allowed. In addition, the offense has no balance with the fourth-worst running game in the NFL.

Meanwhile, Seattle has gotten better every week behind the steady play of rookie Russell Wilson. The quarterback has done well both at home and on the road, winning six in a row and not posting a quarterback rating below 88 in that stretch.

Atlanta will also having a hard time defending Marshawn Lynch, who has now rushed for over 100 yards in five straight games. 

The Seahawks have proved they can win on the road and they will be able to do it again with a narrow victory over the No. 1 seed.

Prediction: Seahawks 21, Falcons 20