NFL teams inch closer to Super Bowl Sunday with four exciting Divisional Round matchups set for this weekend.
No one knows these contenders better than the people who eat, sleep and breathe their favorite teams – NFL expert bloggers. We’ve enlisted the help of eight bloggers to give you one reason to bet their side this weekend.
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos (-9.5, 46)
WHY BALTIMORE COVERSJustin Silberman writes for Ravens24x7.com/ Russellstreetreport.com. You can follow him on twitter at @RussellStReport and @Jsilbe3.
There are many reasons to believe the Ravens will keep this close, including having a much healthier defense this time around. Last Sunday marked the first time all season that they had Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata on the field together. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been far more aggressive lately than he was earlier during the season, suggesting Baltimore has a better chance of forcing turnovers against Manning & Co. WHY DENVER COVERSKim Constantinesco is the senior editor for PredominantlyOrange.com. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @PredomOrange.
The Broncos ranked fifth in total offense and second in total defense, which makes them the only NFL club in the Top 5 in each category. The Broncos enter the playoffs with an 11-game win streak and during that run they won by at least seven points to tie for the second-largest in NFL history. Additionally, the Broncos led the NFL in scoring differential in the second half this year. They were outscored by their opponent just once in the final two quarters this season.
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (-2.5, 44.5)WHY GREEN BAY COVERSRay Rivard is the editor of Lombardi Ave. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @lombardiave.
The difference for the Packers and the reason you should pick them this week will be Aaron Rodgers. He'll be playing with a huge chip on his shoulder because his favorite boyhood team, the 49ers, snubbed him in the draft. The Packers quarterback will pick apart the 49ers, especially in the second half where he thrives. The Niners will be rusty and Rodgers will jump on them early, leading Green Bay into the NFC Championship game once again.WHY SAN FRANCISCO COVERSDavid Fucillo writes for Niners Nation. You can follow them on Facebook or Twitter @NinersNation.
The 49ers absolutely must win the turnover battle to defeat the Packers. The 49ers are sending out second-year QB Colin Kaepernick, who has done a good job avoiding interceptions. If he can avoid stupid mistakes and the 49ers defense can force Aaron Rodgers to make a bad pass, the victory is there for the taking.
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons (-1, 45.5)WHY SEATTLE COVERSRob Davies writes for Field Gulls. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @FieldGulls.
It's difficult to see how Atlanta are going to contain Marshawn Lynch and should Seattle go behind early, as was the case last week, the Seahawks won't need to abandon their running game too early, if at all. The Falcons ranked 21st against the run during the regular season and are up against a Seahawks ground attack that averaged 161.2 yards per game. That was before they carved up the Redskins for 224 rushing yards last Sunday. When you consider Russell Wilson and Robert Turbin as complements to Lynch, Seattle could be turning back the clock on Sunday... minus the mud in the facemask.
WHY ATLANTA COVERSDave Choate is the editor-in-chief at The Falcoholic. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheFalcoholic.
The Atlanta Falcons will cover the spread because they have a dominant passing attack - one good enough to beat even the vaunted Seattle secondary. It's going to be a relatively close game, but the passing game and an opportunistic defense will make the difference.
Houston Texans at New England Patriots (-9.5, 47.5)WHY HOUSTON COVERSStephanie Stradley writes TexansChick, a blog for the Houston Chronicle. You can follow her on Twitter @StephStradley and check out her blog at StephStradley.com.
The Patriots are the only team in the playoffs which is expecting to have all of its Week 1 starters in action this weekend. However, there are some lesser-known players coming back for the Texans, who missed the first game between these teams, that can be difference makers. On offense, TE Garrett Graham and RT Derek Newton will likely both play. On defense, OLB Brooks Reed will be back and CB Johnathan Joseph appears to be playing healthier than he was earlier in the season when he was dealing with groin/hamstring issues.WHY NEW ENGLAND COVERSJoe Soriano is the lead editor for Musket Fire. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter @Musket_Fire.
The Pats staunch run defense has a good chance of making the Texans one-dimensional again. One of the main reasons why they won last time out was because they shut down Arian Foster. That put more pressure on Matt Schaub to perform. He didn't, and that's largely because the Pats held Andre Johnson in check and contained the other weapons. Schaub has played extremely poor lately, and that's a far cry from where he was at earlier this season. Houston's 19-13 performance against the Bengals last week left a lot to be desired on offense.
Join the debate. Which teams cover during the NFL Divisional Round?