3 Keys for the NFL Divisional Round of the Playoffs

Garda has the keys to each of the three Divisional Playoff games not involving the Packers as we head ever closer to the Super Bowl.

Somehow, some way, the Green Bay packers found their mojo again and wiped Washington off the field last weekend. Which means CheeseheadTV readers get an extra super-duper bonus of Packers football on Saturday night.

There are some other games though, and this should be a much better weekend of games after last weekend’s overall debacle. You can catch my full preview of these games on my podcast but have one key per game for you to keep an eye on below.

By the way—anyone see what happened when the Vikings decided to go all in with Adrian Peterson? I tell you, if they hold onto him, the Packers will have little to worry about in that division down the road, assuming Green Bay takes care of its own issues.

But that’s a discussion for the offseason. On to this weekend’s slate.

Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots, 4:35pm EST – CBS (Saturday)

Can Alex Smith overcome a solid defense with a banged up Jeremy Maclin, assuming they have him?

NFL.com writer Ian Rapoport reported on Saturday morning that Maclin has had a rough week and it sounds like even if he plays (and it’s no sure thing) he might be very limited.


The Patriots entire team is banged up, sure. The defense as much as anything else. But the Chiefs’ weak point has forever been their offense. Coming off a 10 win streak, I think we may have forgotten that at times this is a middling offense with a quarterback who has not thrown for more than 200 yards since Week 12.

This might be the game that seems least lopslided of these three games, but it’s hard to buy the offense as being able to do enough to beat the Patriots in Foxboro.

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers, 1:05pm EST – FOX (Sunday)

This comes down to whether or not the Seattle Seahawks offensive line can protect Russell Wilson and open lanes for Marshawn Lynch (if he plays). Of course, the Seattle secondary versus the tattered remnants of the Panthers wide receivers will be interesting, but overall I feel better about Cam Newton, his protection, Greg Olsen and Jonathan Stewart than I do Wilson behind this offensive line.

These are two very similar teams—strong defense, good secondary, solid run game, great quarterback who is dangerous on the run and limited receiving options.

The difference will be in the trenches though, as Carolina’s offensive line has been far more effective than Seattle’s.

Of course, the impact can be mitigated with Wilson’s mobility but you’re making it harder on yourself. If there is a weakness here, it is the offensive line.

If Carolina can take advantage, they should end up in the Conference finals.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos, 4:40pm EST CBS (Sunday)

This all comes down to quarterbacks. I like to do matchups here of course, but in this case the winner of this game is the one whose quarterback plays better.

I give the edge to Peyton Manning and the Broncos because 1) Antonio Brown is out while 2) Ben Roethlisberger is dealing with a torn shoulder and 3) will have to perform against one of the best defenses in the NFL.

As much as Manning’s ability (or lack thereof) will factor in here, the defense Roethlisberger has to beat is far better.

Aqib Talib will likely beat up Martavis Bryant while Chris Harris will clamp down on an overmatched Markus Wheaton, leaving an aging Heath Miller to limp down the field against a solid linebacking corps and some brutally hard hitting safeties.

Maybe the answer will be to pass to running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, who is good when he gets the ball in space.

That’s still a puncher’s chance and no more though, even if Roethlisberger can’t try and stretch the field.

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Comments (1)

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CallingIt's picture

January 16, 2016 at 06:07 pm

My one key for every game - Score more points than the other guys!

I know, it's a stretch and I may be a bit out on a limb here, but I'm sticking with it!

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