The NFL is down to it’s Elite 8 as this week’s Divisional Round playoffs features three rematches from the regular season. We have three heavy favorites out of the four games and we’ll preview each of the contests. We will move on to Sunday’s games.
Houston Texans vs. Baltimore Ravens
In another regular season rematch, the Houston Texans will try to keep their undefeated postseason record alive as they travel to Baltimore. The Ravens veterans look at this postseason as maybe their “last best” chance to get to and win another Super Bowl. For the Texans, they’ve already accomplished more than any other team in franchise history and are playing with house money.
How can the Texans win this game? For Houston to win they must find success in the running game with Arian Foster and limit the throws that rookie quarterback T.J. Yates makes. Houston will also need to force turnovers and score touchdowns in the red zone. A fast start is a must in this game for Houston.
How can the Ravens win this game? Basically the Ravens have to not screw it up. They must first stop Arian Foster and the Texans running game and take their chances with a third-string rookie quarterback. On offense, a punt is not necessarily a bad play and as long as they avoid turnovers they should move on.
Who has more pressure? Without a doubt it’s Baltimore. Houston wasn’t expected by many to even beat Cincinnati with all of their injuries and they will be loose and free in this game. The clock is ticking on Baltimore with all of their veterans and they can’t let an opportunity slip through their hands while facing a third-string quarterback.
Line and prediction: Ravens by 9. Baltmore is entirely too focused for a letdown at home. They’ve waited five years to host a playoff game and they haven’t been knocked out in their first playoff game in the John Harbaugh era. Ravens 27, Texans 10.
New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers
This is much more of a regular season rematch then the NFC Championship game rematch that many are pointing to. Only 32 of the 90 active players in that game remain with their respective teams so both coaching staffs will not be using any of that tape.
Somewhere along the way, popular sentiment has turned New York’s way despite the Packers 15-1 record. The Giants are the hot team right now winning three games in a row with the playoffs on the line. They have the weapons to beat Green Bay, but there’s a reason why they are a heavy underdog. After the Packers slipped in Kansas City, everyone seemingly jumped off the Green Bay bandwagon. This Packers team is still excellent and they still have the best quarterback on the planet with healthy weapons.
How can the Giants win this game? Their front four needs to hit Aaron Rodgers early and often and they must score touchdowns in the red zone instead of field goals. If New York limits mistakes and can run the football they have an excellent shot.
How can the Packers win this game? Since both teams have outstanding quarterbacks and passing games the game plans will be similar. Green Bay must limit mistakes and have some balance on offense. They have the better players, they just need to make plays.
Who has more pressure? There will be some level of embarrassment if a 15-1 team loses in it’s first playoff game. Still, nobody would be surprised if New York pulls the upset and with all that happened this week in Green Bay with the tragic death of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin’s son, some of the team’s preparation has been compromised.
Line and prediction: Packers by 9. Heavy betting is coming in on New York as the public feels that the number is simply too high. Don’t out-think the room. We have a 9-7 team traveling to face a 15-1 team who has had an extra week to prepare. Packers 35, Giants 20.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie