I was 3-1 on Wild-Card predictions. Quickly, here are my Divisional predictions:
Texans 17, Patriots 20: This will be a closer game than everyone thinks. If the Texans’ pass rush shows up, the Texans win. Remember a couple years ago when the Patriots blew out the Jets in the regular season 41-3, only to be defeated by the same Jets at Foxboro in the Divisional Round? That’s the complacency effect: the Patriots might mentally underestimate the Texans, while the Texans will be eager to seek revenge and plan around what they did wrong last time.
Ravens 13, Broncos 30: Flacco is terrible on the road. Even worse in the mile-high air. Peyton Manning is mediocre in the playoffs because he’s never had a team as complete as this year’s Broncos on both sides of the ball. The caveat: this being his last season, Ray Lewis is playing with renewed effort; the Broncos were playing in a weak division, so they have never really had to compete against/prepare for tough teams. Still, I think the Ravens are just not as complete a team as they were last year.
Seahawks 24, Falcons 20: The Falcons are cursed. They’ve never won a playoff game not because Matt Ryan is not a playoff-caliber QB, but because each team they’ve lost to wound up winning the Super Bowl. (Packers ’10, Giants ’11) Like the aforementioned two teams, the Seahawks are peaking offensively and defensively at the right time. The inspired play of Tony Gonzalez, who is most likely retiring at the end of the season, will make this close. And maybe the Seahawk kicker issue too. (Their starting kicker got injured last week.) But I think the Seahawks edge out.
Packers 24, 49ers 27: This one is the toughest call outside of Texans/Patriots. Both kickers suck, and it may come down to which kicker misses the least field goals. Besides that, I give a slight edge to the Niners based on home-field advantage and a good matchup of strong pass rush against weak offensive line. Kaepernick is a huge wild card here. He’s more prone to turnovers than Alex Smith; in a game as close as this, one mistake could change the entire outcome of the game.