Andrew Luck is looking to finally shake free of Peyton Manning’s shadow come Sunday.
The Indianapolis Colts have no regrets when it comes to their current quarterback situation. In his third season, Andrew Luck has more than h held his own. As a starter in all 48 games, Luck is 33-15 with 86 touchdowns and 43 interceptions.
Luck is 2-2 in the postseason, but faces his toughest test to date against the Denver Broncos, led by Peyton Manning. Despite splitting two regular season meetings with Manning and the Broncos, the playoffs are a different breed. Is Luck ready to wrestle the torch away from a reluctant Manning and take the Colts to the brink of the Super Bowl?
Saturday January 10, 2015: Games begin at 4:35 pm and 8:15 pm
Baltimore Ravens (10-6) at New England Patriots (12-4) – The Baltimore Ravens come into this game with a 2-1 postseason record against the Patriots (All games in Foxboro). In their two victories, the Patriots were outscored 61-27 and produced seven turnovers. A lot has changed since their last meeting in 2012. Cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis will have their hands full with Baltimore receivers Steve Smith and speedy Torrey Smith — who have accounted for 17 of Joe Flacco’s 27 touchdowns. The key to the Ravens keeping the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands rests on the production of running back Justin Forsett and tight end Owen Daniels. Evis Dumervil, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs are they keys to disrupting the Patriots offensive rhythm. Producing a turnover or three couldn’t hurt either.
The man who’s done more with less than anyone is looking at possibly his last run at The Lombard Trophy. Tom Brady has done his share of spreading the ball around this season as four players have more than 50 receptions led by Julian Edelman’s 92 grabs. Of course, the man to watch on every snap is tight end Rob Gronlowski. The Patriots don’t have a bell cow in the backfield, but are very effective with LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray and Shane Vereen. The Patriots defense is the healthiest its been in years and is a big reason why there here today.
Prediction: Patriots 27 – Ravens 21
Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) at Seattle Seahawks (12-4) – Very few teams are familiar with one another as these two as this is their fourth meeting in three season and their second in the 2014-2015 campaign. The Panthers defense was their calling card last in week’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals — holding the visitors to 77 yards of total offense. This week the task is very different as they face a Seattle offense that will look for mismatches and deception to gain an upper hand. The defensive line takes a huge hit as defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is lost for the remainder of the playoffs with a broken foot. Cam Newton wasn’t great, but the running attack led by Jonathan Stewart — who rushed for 123 yards on 24 carries. Newton can ill-afford to miss some targets Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen like last week.
The Seahawks have won heir last three meetings against the Panthers by a total of 13 points, including a 13-9 barn burner in Week 8. It’s safe to say each contest hinged on a play or two so to say the Seahawks have a clear-cut advantage would be foolish. The Seahawks defense will need to get as many shots in on Newton as possible. Newton with a happy set of feet plays to the home team’s advantage. While all eyes will be on Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, tight end Luke Wilson could be the wild card in another close contest.
Prediction: Panthers 20 – Seahawks 13
Sunday January 11, 2015: Games begin at 1:05pm and 4:40pm
Dallas Cowboys (12-4) at Green Bay Packers (12-4) – The Dallas Cowboys rallied from a 14-point deficit last week against the Detroit Lions, before any picked up flag became relevant. I expect the Cowboys to get after the Packers from the outset on both sides of the ball. Dez Bryant DeMarco Murray, Tony Romo and Jason Witten are playing at their best at the right time. Can they hold up in the intense cold and the play of the offense are two key questions that will be answered early on. The Cowboys pass rush has to be in sync with the secondary and their attempt to disrupt routes to possibly get Aaron Rodgers moving laterally. Containing Eddie Lacy and James Starks is a must for victory.
No one knows how hurt Aaron Rodgers will be when he starts moving around, not even Rodgers himself. The key for the Packers is to establish the run/short passing game with Lacy and Starks. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson routes may be cut in half, so yardage after the catch is vital. Containing the Cowboys four-headed monster is tough, getting to Romo when the Cowboys offensive line is rolling is that much tougher. Clay Matthews Jr. and Julius Peppers are going to line up everywhere on the field. Romo’s head will be on a swivel.
Prediction: Packers 27 – Cowboys 17
Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at Denver Broncos (12-4) – This may be our best chance at a shootout this weekend. There’s no telling how much of Trent Richardson we’ll see. It looks like backup Dan Herron is going to see the bulk of offensive snaps. Andrew Luck has a new weapon to go with Coby Fleener, T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne, receiver Donte Moncrief is a speedster who can easily get behind pass coverage. The loss of DE Robert Mathis was huge but the defensive line has held their own with Cory Redding, Bjoern Werner and D’Qwell Jackson. Manning isn’t the most mobile player, but he gets rid of the ball quickly to a horde of receivers. If the Colts are going to win this game they will need a minimum of two turnovers with points to boot.
As the regular season closed out, the whispers about Peyton Manning slowing down got louder. I believe Manning is just waiting to cut loose, but these are the playoffs and this is Peyton Manning who more times than not returns to a mere mortal. Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker will be more than a handful for the Colts secondary. C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman are as physical a running duo left in the postseason. Terrence “Pot Roast” Knighton can cause some serious problems up front. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware will look to funnel everything to Knighton. In the secondary Aquib Talib and T.J. Ward can’t afford to let Hilton or Moncrief get deep.
Prediction: Colts 30 – Broncos 24