#1 New England Patriots vs #6 Baltimore Ravens
Gillette Stadium 4:35pm – NBC
New England -7
The New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens have shared success in the playoffs during the past 15 seasons. The Patriots are an NFL best 18-8 since the 2000 season while the Ravens are not far behind with a record of 15-7. Their numerous victories has led to many run ins, and Saturday marks the fourth meeting in six years. The Patriots are 7-1 at home this season with their lone loss coming in week 17 against the Buffalo Bills. Whew! The Ravens are 4-4 on the road with those four wins coming against the Dolphins, Saints, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland. Nothing to be to excited about heading into Foxboro.
Tom Brady is Tom Brady. He is one of the top 5 quarterbacks of all time. Some will argue he is the greatest. He does it year in and year out with not the greatest talent, but this year has been different. Rob Gronkowski was healthy, and then addition of Brandon Lafell has been huge as he adds another playmaker to the outside. For the Ravens, running back Justin Forsett had a career season with the absence of Ray Rice. Forsett rushed for 1,266 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns, which is half of his career total. Joe Flacco fell 14 yards short of 4,000 yards through the air. The Ravens starting quarterback threw 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The addition of Steve Smith Sr. in the offseason helped immensely.
This game, like all the others, will come down to watch defense can give up the least amount of points. The Ravens allow 337 yards per game while the Patriots allow 344. Terrell Suggs has replaced the legend that was Ray Lewis. The former Arizona State standout has recorded 11 sacks this season. As always, look for him to be a shit disturber on Saturday. For the Pats defensively, this squad may not have the names, but they sure can play. Darrelle Revis is one of the best in the game still, and the old veteran Rob Ninkovich leads the team in sacks with 8.
This will be the best game of the weekend. Tom Brady has a playoff record of 12-3. He is 1-2 against the Ravens in the playoffs. He will be a cool .500 come Saturday evening. Patriots win, but by less than 7.
#1 Seattle Seahawks vs #4 Carolina Panthers
Century Link Field 8:15pm – FOX
The Carolina Panthers played well on Saturday, granted it came against the Arizona Cardinals, and a quarterback that does not belong in the NFL. They have the talent. They have a loaded backfield, a superstar quarterback, and solid playmakers on the outside led by rookie Kelvin Benjamin. The thing that keeps this team in games however is its defense. Luke Kuechly is an All-Pro linebacker and played like it Saturday, forcing an interception, and grabbing one of his own. The Panthers do enter this game without stud DT Star Lotulelei and that could be trouble going up against Marshawn Lynch who is not afraid to run through the tackles.
For the Seahawks, playing at their stadium is such an advantage. That place gets crazy! Russell Wilson does not have to produce like a Tom Brady, or Joe Flacco. Wilson has “Beast Mode” right behind him, and Wilson, like Newton, can run the ball whenever they need to for large chunk of yards. I will say, it will be interesting to see how the Seahawks do without the services of Golden Tate. Tate seemed to make big play after big play for the Seahawks down the stretch last year. Who is going to be that go to when it matters most? Will Doug Baldwin or Jermaine Kearse step up?
If the Panthers win this game, it will be one of the biggest upsets of all time. Seahawks win by 10.