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NFL Playoff Preview Divisional Round

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The road to Super Bowl XLVII is paved with four fewer teams as the list of playoff teams has been pared from 12 down to eight. And so we bid a fond farewell to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Minnesota Vikings, the Indianapolis Colts and the Washington Redskins; each of these teams had an exceptional year, but their respective seasons have come to an end.

Moving on to the Divisional Round, the path is about to get a good deal rockier for the Wild Card survivors each one of the first round winners now has a daunting matchup ahead, going on the road against a higher seeded team that has had an extra week of rest and recovery. Even so, the Lombardi Trophy is still very much up for grabs.

For each of these teams, only two more wins stand between them and a berth in the Super Bowl. Let's have a look at who might make it to next week's conference championships.

(Last week's Wild Card picks: 3-1)


Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos

There is no denying that the Ravens looked impressive in their dismantling of the Colts; the defense looked livelier than it had in weeks. Joe Flacco was throwing a strong deep ball and Baltimore's offensive skill players looked solid. However, going up against Denver is going to be a whole different animal. The Ravens D looked mostly like a bend-don't-break unit that won't be nearly as easy against veteran quarterback Peyton Manning and his wealth of receivers. Indy had trouble mounting much pressure on Flacco; all-world linebacker Von Miller won't have that problem. It could be a close one, but look for Denver to put an end to the Ravens run.

Denver 28 Baltimore 14

Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots

The Texans probably had the easiest time of all the Wild Card winners, beating an overachieving Bengals squad that was just happy to be there. They won't have any such luck with a New England team that has already thrashed them soundly once this season. While Houston has a good deal of talent on both sides of the ball, the truth is that the Patriots are one of the most dynamic offensive teams in the league right now. The Texans don't have the defensive fortitude to slow down Tom Brady and company, nor do they have enough firepower to keep up with New England in a shootout (even against an admittedly soft Patriots D). New England should come out on top.

New England 34 Houston 24


Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers

Call it a hunch, but this might just be the game of the weekend. The Packers had no problem disposing of a visibly spent Vikings team one with little-used quarterback Joe Webb under center no less but the Niners are a different animal. While Aaron Rodgers is a no-doubt elite quarterback, Green Bay's lack of a solid running game will hurt them against a San Francisco defense that can be dominating. Running back Frank Gore and QB Colin Kaepernick are threats to score whenever they touch the ball; the Packers have shown some weakness against the run. It's going to come down to strength against strength and the 49ers look to have the slightest of edges.

San Francisco 24 Green Bay 21

Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Seahawks had a scary first quarter against the Redskins, but promptly went on to take care of business on both sides of the ball. In terms of how they're currently playing, Seattle might be the best team in the NFL right now. And they're going up against an Atlanta team that doesn't seem to be as good as its number-one seed would indicate. Of course, any team that has Matt Ryan throwing to Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez can put up some points, but the Seahawks have a strong pass defense, a gutsy rookie at QB and a workhorse running back. The Falcons will put up a good fight, but Seattle looks like a team of destiny right now.

Seattle 31 Atlanta 24


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