Will Andrew Luck (#12) come out on top against Tom Brady?
Betting Instinct blogger Zito Madu previews all four of the NFL divisional matchups
Indianapolis @ New England
The match-up between two marquee Quarterbacks: Tom Brady, the all-American Golden Boy (Man) of New England, 3-time Superbowl champion and Uggs model. Against Andrew Luck, a legend in the making, accurate and undeterred in the face of the seemingly impossible with a forest-like neck beard. Both of these quarterbacks have made miracles an everyday thing this season, Brady with numerous last minute wins in the regular season, and Luck, more recently, showing that the Colts are never truly out of a game with him at the QB position against the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend.
Both teams offenses come down to these two players, with New England’s situation at receiver making national headlines during the course of the regular season: Aaron Hernandez arrested for murder, Rob Gronkowski’s surgery, return and then subsequent knee injury taking him out for the rest of the season and a very long time, the injury prone-ness of Danny Amendola and the inexperience of the rookies. There’s also questions at running back for The Patriots with Steven Ridley willing to give the ball to the opposing team by the way of fumbles and Shane Vereen’s inability to stay healthy leaving only Blount (and Bolden) as the most dependable of the group.
On the Indianapolis side of things, you have the fact that they traded a first round pick for Trent Richardson (who wants to make a statement in this game), master of the 2 yard run, who lost his starting place to Donald Brown who seems to be a star on the rise. The Colts best weapon besides for Andrew Luck’s brain, T.Y Hilton, has been on a tear lately. Matched against an ailing New England defense he looks poised for a big game unless Aqib Talib rediscovers his early season form (which was, to be fair cut short by injury. Having a bye week is sure to be a big boost for him). For the rest of the receiving corps, it’s nothing to write home about with Coby Fleener being the standout of the group as Darrius Heyward-Bey seems to be suffering from injury as well.
New England comes in suffering injuries to many key defensive players: Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes recently, Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Adrian Wilson, so on and so forth. The Colts on the other hand, while not suffering from the same injury bug as New England are abysmal in defending the run (as the Patriots have been after losing Wilfork and Mayo), ranking 26th and generally ranking 20th in pass yards allowed with 357.1 yards a game.
With all of the injuries and plain ineffectiveness of the offense and defense of both teams, this game looks set to come down to which Quarterback plays better or which one decides to lead another miraculous comeback in the final few minutes of the game.
Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots Betting Odds
Indianapolis win – 3.55
New England win – 1.36
(All odds supplied by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)
Saints @ Seahawks
The last time these two met, the Seahawks didn’t just win against the Saints, they beat them down 34-7 and limited Drew Brees to 147 yards passing. Of course, this was in the regular season and before the Saints became the Road Warriors (They finally won a road playoff game after a 0-9 start) they are today. Sean Payton has been doing the best that he can, short of kidnapping the Seahawks starters, to replicate the environment that the Saints will encounter, though it’s not yet quite clear if painting the Seahawks logo on their practice field will prepare them well enough for the real thing.
The Saints will be hoping Drew Brees plays like his usual self in the matchup and not his road version, who is prone to turnovers and wobbly passes. The Seahawks of course, have the best young Quarterback in the league and arguably one of the best as of right now in Russell Wilson, who can make plays with his arm and his feet but is not as run happy as many other mobile quarterbacks of his age. And now with the returning Percy Harvin, he welcomes in another weapon to an offense that was desperately needing of passing weapons.
The Seahawks also have a defense that was ranked first in points given up, yards conceded, and pass yards conceded, falling short to 7th on rush yards (which the Saints should look to exploit with their rejuvenated running game and a motivated Mark Ingram), and lets not forget the 12th man who also add a different dimension to their defense.
The key to this game will come down to how the Saints deal with the multi-faceted offense of Seattle and if they will be able to crack a defense that is seemingly impregnable.
New Orleans @ Seattle Betting odds
New Orleans Saints – 3.85
Seattle Seahawks – 1.26
(Odds supplied by Bulldog777.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)
San Diego @ Denver
This game looks as if it should be a blowout in Denver’s favor. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the exploits of Peyton Manning this season, who shattered Tom Brady’s record for most passing touchdowns in a single season and then also Drew Brees’ record for most passing yards in a single season.
He leads an offense that’s ranked first in everything but rushing yards and even that seems to be coming along well, an offense that broke the record for most points in a season and one that seems poised to lay waste to any team in its path. Except for apparently San Diego. The Chargers who barely made the playoffs (thanks to the Chiefs reserves and Succop), are one of the few teams that have beaten the Broncos this season.
More than that, the Chargers seem to always find a way to be near perfect in order to beat Peyton Manning, whether in a Colts uniform or a Broncos and Philip Rivers will once more need to play perfectly in order to keep up with Manning as there’s almost no way that;s ranked 29th in pass yards will be able to cop with the unlimited weapons on offense that the Broncos have.
Philip Rivers can take heed that the Broncos defense has steadily fallen off since the injury to Von Miller and the rise of Keenan Allen as a potential rookie of the year will be a boost against a team that doesn’t deal too well with the pass. After handling Cincy, the Chargers have shown that they belong in the playoffs and will be looking to conjure old whatever magic they have to once again stop Peyton Manning.
Betting Instinct Tip – Denver -9 is 1.91 with AllYouBet.ag
San Francisco @ Carolina
One and two of the NFC West face off in a battle between two dynamic QBs with incredible arm strength and game winning speed with each team boasting a top ranked defense. Carolina in 2nd in points given up, 2nd in yards total given up, 6th in pass yards and 2nd in rush yards while the Niners are 3rd in points, 5th in yards 7th in pass yards and 4th against rush yards. San Francisco has the edge on offense ranking 11th in points to Carolina’s 18th and with the return of the “Greatest catcher of all time” Michael Crabtree, their offense has finally hit its stride.
Now Carolina has to deal with the receivers, the ageless Frank Gore and the unpredictable Colin Kaepernick. That’s not to say that San Francisco will not have their hands full with Cam Newton seemingly becoming the unstoppable quarterback that many envisioned he would be. An accurate passer, Newton has learned to pick his spots with his runs, trust his receivers and trust that Ron Rivera will not hinder him anymore with conservative playcalling.
He will also be welcoming back the evergreen Steve Smith and Jonathan Stewart back in this game so this game seems as if it’s going to come down to which team will grind it out more. The front seven of the Panthers have stopped Kaepernick before and will be looking for a repeat performance but the first year starter will be out for revenge for their embarrassing early season loss.
Betting Instinct Tip – Carolina +2 is 1.73 with GR88.com
ZITO MADU (zitov2) is a writer for SBnation, and has written for Surreal Football, LiveBreatheFutbol, and numerous other sports sites