Predictions are like opinions -- everyone's got 'em. And with the NFL's second season continuing Sunday -- we were one-for-two Saturday, four-for-six since the playoffs began -- the divisional round concludes. As such, here's how today's postseason games should go down…
NFC No. 5 Seattle Seahawks (12-5) at NFC No. 1 Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
Fox, 10 a.m. PT
Simply put, the stars are aligning for an NFC title game next weekend at Candlestick Park, between the 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Of course, for that to happen, the Seahawks have to win their second straight road playoff game, at the conference's top seed. Sounds daunting, right? Well, while the Falcons did earn homefield advantage throughout the playoffs for a reason, like having one of the most explosive air attacks in the game in quarterback Matt Ryan, tight end Tony Gonzalez and receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, Atlanta is ripe for a fall after losing two of its final four games. Twice before the Falcons had the No. 1 seed, in 1980 and 2010, only to lose its first playoff game. The Seahawks, meanwhile, seem a team on a mission, even if their best pass rusher, Chris Clemons is lost with a knee injury suffered in the FedEx Field grass. Seattle still has the most fearsome secondary in the league, and hard-hitting, PED suspension-beating cornerback Richard Sherman is leading the defense the way rookie quarterback Russell Wilson is piloting the offense.
The prediction: Seahawks 24, Falcons 20
AFC No. 3 Houston Texans (13-4) at AFC No. 2 New England Patriots (12-4)
CBS, 1:30 p.m. PT
A Boston newspaper columnist penned this week that New England was the first team in NFL history to have two byes in the playoffs, that's how sure he was of a Patriots rout of Houston. And as disrespectful a notion as that may be, said columnist might be right. Cruising along for most of the season with the most dominant defensive player in the game in defensive end J.J. Watt, who led the league with 20 1/2 sacks, the Texans dropped three of their last four games, including a 42-10 beatdown by the Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 10 which began the Texans' free fall from the No. 1 seed to No. 3. Tom Brady threw four touchdown passes to three different receivers that day, and yet, the Patriots are not a one-dimensional team. Not with second-year running back Stevan Ridley rushing for 1,263 yards. In fact, the Patriots, who had the No. 1 overall offense in the league, actually averaged more rushing yards per game than did the Texans and Arian Foster. Still, in boxing they say styles make fights and as the Texans boast Foster, they have more than a puncher's chance…as long as they don't get KO'd first.
The prediction: Patriots 35, Texans 17