There are only eight teams left standing in the NFL, and after this weekend, there will only be four. The Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers all got a chance to rest last weekend and will host a game this weekend.
It seems teams like the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks are riding momentum and could therefore be primed to win on the road. Meanwhile, the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens should both just be happy to be playing another week. Maybe the Texans and Ravens will find their stride, but history is not on their side.
Here are the predicted MVPs for each of the four games in the divisional round. The winner of the award is selected from the predicted winner.
The last time these two teams met in Week 15, Decker torched the Ravens secondary for 133 yards receiving. That was one of only two times on the season that Decker topped the century mark in receiving yardage. In his past three games, Decker has caught five touchdowns, and his 13 total TDs were good enough for second in the NFL during the regular season.
The Ravens defense only gave up 21.5 points a game in the regular season. That same defense only gave up nine total points in the win versus the Indianapolis Colts last weekend.
Andrew Luck is good, but he is not Peyton Manning yet. Manning will find a way to get the football to Decker versus the Ravens secondary again. Decker will have another 100-plus-yard day and will find the end zone again as the Broncos knock the Ravens out of the playoffs.
Smith finished the 2012 regular season with 19.5 sacks, ranking him at No. 2 in the league. One of those sacks came versus the Packers in the opening game of the season.
Smith has only gotten better as the season has progressed, and the Packers offensive line has been exposed. The Packers gave up three sacks in last week’s win over the Minnesota Vikings and allowed 51 sacks on the year. Only the Arizona Cardinals gave up more sacks.
Look for Smith to take advantage of offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse all game long. According to Pro Football Focus, Newhouse gave up eight sacks on the year and 32 quarterback hurries. Smith will have at least two sacks and will cause a turnover as the 49ers advance in the playoffs.
With apologies to the Texans' Arian Foster, Lynch is the best running back left in the playoffs and will carry his team to a road win in Atlanta. Lynch has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the past five games. His 132-yard effort on a horrible field in Washington last week was the catalyst for the Seahawks' win.
The Seahawks are on a six-game win streak, and Lynch has scored eight times in those wins. Atlanta fields a middling run defense that allowed 16 rushing touchdowns during and gave up 123.2 yards rushing per game during the regular season.
Lynch has rushed for more than 100 yards in five road games this season. On Sunday, he'll make it six. Expect him to eclipse 125 yards rushing and score at least once.
Brady was magnificent the last time these two teams met in Week 14. The former Michigan Wolverine threw four touchdowns to zero interceptions as the Patriots blew out the Texans.
A solid Texans defense was exposed that day and gave up a total of 42 points. In the four losses the Texans have on the season, the defense gave up 42 points to the Packers and the Patriots, 23 to the Minnesota Vikings and 28 to the Indianapolis Colts. The latter two losses came in the final two weeks of the season, so this squad doesn't appear to have the momentum.
Brady will score more than 28 points himself while the Patriots run away with the victory at home. He is 2-3 in his last five playoff games, with his latest loss coming in last year's Super Bowl. That and the other losses will drive the notoriously competitive Brady to a huge win over the Texans.