Last week we previewed and picked the NFL wild card playoff games, while providing some fantasy analysis. Hopefully the fantasy advice helped you a bit, while if you used our NFL picks advice, you were 4-0 straight up.
In the first round of the playoffs I picked three home teams to win, and this week I’m going the other way. Read on to see which lone home team wins this week, along with some advice for DJ’s fantasy football games:
Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos – 4:30 pm ET on CBS
Just about everyone is heavily favoring Denver here, but I’m going against the norm and saying the Baltimore Ravens are too hungry to avenge last season’s AFC title game loss to have their playoff run end here. A week off can sometimes work against a team, and I think that might be the case for Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
I know the Broncos are the far superior team on paper, but Baltimore isn’t exactly a slouch, and aside from one of their top corner spots, they’re finally close to full health on defense. With Ray Lewis providing the emotion and Terrell Suggs improving the pass-rush, Baltimore could actually give Peyton Manning a tough day. I still think Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are strong plays, but I’m not willing to spend the cash personally on Manning and I wouldn’t be shocked if Knowshon Moreno didn’t fully show up in this one.
On the other side, I like Ray Rice this week, and think Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta could be nice plays with Champ Bailey likely taking Torrey Smith away.
The Ravens wanted to win anyways, but with Ray Lewis having one foot already in retirement, this team should continue to play with even more emotion than usual. There’s an intangible there that we really can’t measure. That’s partially why I’m picking Baltimore for the big upset.
My Pick: Ravens 26, Broncos 23
Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers – 8:00 pm ET on FOX
The 49ers took the first meeting back in week one, but it’s Colin Kaepernick under center now, and not the game managing Alex Smith. That could mean the 49ers will be too explosive to handle at home, or that the shakier version of Kaepernick we’ve seen at times will be exposed in this playoff game.
Green Bay is no slouch on defense and they’ll be determined both to get back at the 49ers, and to redeem themselves for a sorry playoff performance last year. Recent years have shown us that a week off can sometimes be the worst thing for a team, and that could very well be the case this week for the 49ers.
Despite the tough matchup, I think Rodgers and his top weapons are full go here, although I’d steer away from using anyone in their rushing attack. Frank Gore can be used for the 49ers if you’re willing to pay for him, while Kaepernick is a classic risk/reward play.
This should still be a close game overall, but these teams matchup well, and as good as the 49ers defense is, it’s awfully hard to get the better of an Aaron Rodgers-led team twice in one season. I doubt it happens with the season on the line.
My Pick: Packers 31, 49ers 24
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons – 1:00 pm ET on FOX
We’re starting three for three here, as I’m taking my third straight road team. Let’s face it, the Seahawks look mean and nasty every single time they hit the field, and I can’t remember the last time I didn’t hear someone say the Falcons were soft.
I know Atlanta is at home and has an explosive defense, but their run defense is absolutely awful and they have yet to win a playoff game in the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era. I think that adds up to Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson running wild, and the Falcons repeating history once again.
The fact is, we’ve seen this before from Atlanta too many times, and for the third year in a row (first Green Bay and then New York), they’re running into a more balanced team that has their eyes set on the big game. I think Julio Jones offers some serious upside in this one, but I’m otherwise weary of Atlanta offensive players in this one.
Ultimately, a loss here could send Mike Smith packing and the Falcons looking for answers. It’s not that the Falcons aren’t good enough. It’s just that Seattle seems to be the better and more complete team.
My Pick: Seahawks 27, Falcons 20
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots – 4:30 pm ET on CBS
The Final game of the weekend certainly won’t be lacking in hype or star power, and unlike the last time they faced (a 42-14 drubbing by the hands of the Pats), this one could actually be close.
For that to be the case, however, Houston’s defense will have to play a lot like they did last week, and their offense will have to try to control the clock with Arian Foster and Ben Tate. That should prove to be difficult against a stout New England run defense, which is having me shy away from spending top dollar on Foster this week.
On the flip-side, if the Texans are forced to throw, I do think Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels hold some serious upside against a shaky Pats secondary. Unfortunately, it probably won’t equate to a win, as Tom Brady and the Patriots are one of the last offensive groups you want to get into a shootout with.
I’m giving Brady and his top weapons the stamp of approval, as they should put up solid numbers regardless of the path this game takes. In the end, however, New England is out for blood and wants back in on the Super Bowl. I just can’t see them getting stopped at home in the second round.
My Pick: Patriots 34, Texans 31