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NFL: Divisional playoff crunch time

BY TONY SCOTT

Friday, January 11, 2013    

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THIS could be one of the most exciting weekends of the entire season as the eight remaining teams go into battle for the four spots that will be open on NFL Conference Championship Weekend. The equation is simple: you win, you go on to the next level; you lose, you clear out your locker and go home.

There's nothing more exciting than the Playoffs. There's a prevailing sense of urgency between teams that are more or less evenly matched and the competitive level ratchets up a notch or two. So does the entertainment and performance quotient of the teams involved. From here on in, the road to Super Bowl XLVII (that's 47 in common parlance for those who did not do Latin in high school) gets even rockier.

The Wild Card Weekend had its moments and picking three out of four winners against the point spread is reasonable, I suppose, my only disappointment being a lacklustre performance by the Bengals as they wilted in the face of the Texans.

The Ravens won their matchup against the Colts and gave the retiring Ray Lewis a stage for his exit from the game. Lewis is one of the most dynamic personalities to have played this game and, in all probability, is headed to the Hall of Fame.

The Packers took care of the Vikings, as I anticipated, and go on to meet a much more formidable opponent on Saturday -- the San Francisco 49ers. Then there was the match of the weekend, the much-hyped contest between the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins and the keenly-anticipated matchup between rookie quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III.

Well, we all know the outcome of that contest. We saw the Seahawks come from behind to earn a well-deserved victory; we saw RG3 do further damage to his already injured knee, and we saw firestorm that has engendered, with debate being sparked as to whether Griffin should have stayed in the game with his injury.

Reports are the RGIII has undergone successful knee surgery, a surgery that was conducted by the same guy who performed a miracle of sorts with the Vikings' running back Adrian Petersen. As the controversy continues to rage around Redskins' coach Mike Shanahan's decision to keep an obviously injured Griffin in the game, it is now painfully obvious that this was not the right move. Griffin and the Redskins go home and Wilson and the Seahawks travel to Atlanta to take on the well rested Falcons.

AFC Divisional Round

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos - Saturday @ 4:30PM (CBS)

Playing in the Mile High stadium against a Peyton Manning led Broncos is perhaps a little more than the Ravens can handle. The Ravens' quarterback, Joe Flacco, has to score early and often if he is to give his team a chance. This is highly unlikely because of the duo of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil who lead a Broncos defense that has a total of 29 sacks, 12 forced fumbles and an interception. These guys will be in Flacco's face all day. Broncos win and go on to the Conference Championships.

Houston Texans at New England Patriots - Sunday @4:30 PM (CBS)

In week 14 of the regular season, the New England Patriots beat up the Houston Texans something fierce. Tom Brady's no huddle offense scored on the first three possessions and didn't give the Texans a chance to respond to this overwhelming onslaught. This beating must stick in the Texans craw as they head for Foxboro to try to avenge that licking. But beating Brady and his bunch at home is a tall order indeed. It's not entirely outside the realm of possibility however, especially if the Texans' ace running back, Arian Foster, gets up a head of steam and busts off some of his good runs. But this is highly unlikely, because the Patriots are at home, coming off a bye week and ready to do what they do best which is to beat up on opponents.

NFC Divisional Round

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers - Saturday @ 8:00 PM (FOX)

In Week 1 the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The Packers are unlikely to have forgotten this and are just about ready to return the favor by beating them at home, thereby ending their run for the Championships. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, is one of the best quarterbacks in the business and if he plays at the level of which he is capable, there is just no way the 49ers can stop him. Meanwhile his counterpart, Colin Kaepernick, has never played in a game of this magnitude. It will be interesting to see how well he handles this kind of pressure. My guess is that Kaepernick implodes, Rodgers explodes and the Packers win.

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons - Sunday @ 1:00 PM (FOX)

The irony is that these two teams did not face each other in the regular season and now they go head to head in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons are coming off a bye week while the Seahawks are coming off a big win against the Washington Redskins. You can expect Seahawks running back, Marshawn Lynch, to make his usual contribution and you can also expect yet another good performance from quarterback Russell Wilson, not just clocking up passing yardage but running the ball himself when the opportunity arises. His counterpart, Matt Ryan, is quite capable himself and has a reputation of protecting the ball and not fumbling which is key, particularly at playoff time. It should be a good one and, as I have indicated more than once, the Seattle Seahawks is the team to watch because they could just go all the way.

Well folks, it's now down to FOUR. Do or DIE, Win or GO HOME! Enjoy the playoff games this weekend and remember to place your bets on the games with JustBet!!!

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NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

*Point Spreads and Under/Over included*

* Point Spreads and Under/Over subject to change without notice, prior to kick-off

Saturday January 12

Den Broncos v Bal Ravens +8.5, Under/Over 45.5

SF 49ers v GB Packers +2.5, Under/Over 45.5

Sunday January 13

Atl Falcons v Sea Seahawks +2.5, Under/Over 46.5

NE Patriots v Hou Texans +9.5, Under/Over 49.5

EXPERTS' PICKS AGAINST THE SPREAD

Tony Scott's Divisional Playoff picks (in bold)

Broncos v Ravens

49ers v Packers

Falcons v Seahawks

Patriots v Texans

Last week: 3-1

Playoff record to date: 3-1

Peter Lindo's Divisional Playoff picks (in bold)

Broncos v Ravens

49ers v Packers

Falcons v Seahawks

Patriots v Texans

Last week: 2-2

Playoff record to date: 2-2

Andrei Roper's Divisional Playoff picks (in bold)

Broncos v Ravens

49ers v Packers

Falcons v Seahawks

Patriots v Texans

Last week: 2-2

Playoff record to date: 2-2

Andre Hutchinson's Divisional Playoff picks (in bold)

Broncos v Ravens

49ers v Packers

Falcons v Seahawks

Patriots v Texans

Last week: 1-3

Playoff record to date: 1-3

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