After a couple of days of much needed rest, The Stack is back on this Friday ready to preview the NFL Divisional Playoffs. Apologies to those looking for a new post the last couple of days. We have NFL playoffs and a couple of other things to get to so let's get right to it and see what made "the stack" for today, Friday, January 11:
Saturday NFL playoff games
Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos 4:30 PM ET CBS
Could this be the last time we ever see Ray Lewis in a Baltimore Ravens uniform? I think I asked the question last week and I was wrong. This week, I'm pretty sure it will be. The Broncos ended the season winning eleven games in a row and Peyton Manning put up some of the best numbers in his career. MVP-like numbers, but he shouldn't win the award thanks to Adrian Peterson carrying the Minnesota Vikings on his back. Anyway, Manning and the offense are clicking and the defense is really good. Plus, the Broncos beat the Ravens 34-17 back in week 15 in Baltimore. I know the Ravens will play inspired for Lewis, but I just don't see how the odds are in their favor of beating the hottest team in the NFL.
Prediction: Broncos 34 Ravens 23
Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers 8:00 PM ET FOX
Best game of the divisional playoffs no question about it. The Packers are looking to exact revenge for their week one loss to the 49ers in Green Bay. The Packers are definitely healthy for this game with only wide receiver Jordy Nelson perhaps a little ginger after limping off the field last week against the Vikings. I don't know how effective he'll be in this game. He may not be very effective the rest of the playoffs should the Packers continue to win. Big matchup in this game is the 49ers defensive line against the Packers offensive line. If Aldon Smith and Justin Smith (who is injured, but expected to play) can continually get in the backfield and force Aaron Rodgers to hang on to the ball, the 49ers win this game easily. If they can contain Rodgers inside the pocket and not allow him to get outside and run with it, then the 49ers will win. I think the key number in this game is 50 yards. If Rodgers can escape and run in the open field and get at least 50 yards rushing, the Packers win this game. That 49ers defense is ready though and so to is their offense. Frank Gore is going to have a good game running the football and even though the Packers got a little extra practice against a mobile quarterback in Joe Webb last week, Colin Kaepernick is a little better than Webb and he will prove it to the Packers. It's going to be a great game.
Prediction: 49ers 27 Packers 17
Sunday's NFL playoff games
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons 1:00 PM ET FOX
The Falcons are on a mission. They are 0-3 in the playoffs in the Mike Smith/Matt Ryan era. It's time to change that. However, two defensive players may not be at full strength following injuries they suffered in their week 17 loss to Tampa Bay. That being DE John Abraham and CB Dunta Robinson. The Seahawks have a big injury of their own though in DE Chris Clemons, the team sack leader with 11.5. He is out with a torn ACL suffered last week on that terrible field in Washington. It's really hard to pick against Russell Wilson with what he is doing right now. Marshawn Lynch has gone full beast mode and that defense is awfully good. The Falcons have a terrific offense, but until they can show me and the rest of the football world that they can win in the playoffs, I'm going to have to believe it when I see it and I want to pick the Falcons. I can't though.
Prediction: Seahawks 27 Falcons 24
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots 4:30 PM ET CBS
The Texans return to the site of their butt-whooping back on December 10. That was also the beginning of their late season slide in which they lost three of four. The Texans weren't very impressive in thie rwin Saturday over the Bengals and the Boston Globe does not like their chances to put in nicely. Unfortunately, neither do I. Part of it is the number of injuries on the defensive side of the ball they've suffered this year. Part of it is Matt Schaub's ineffective play. Arian Foster is ticked at the Boston Globe for that article and he'll play well, but when you give Bill Belichick two weeks to prepare, especially for a playoff game, it's not going to end well. I picked the Texans to make the Super Bowl, and for a while this game looked lilke it would be played in Houston, but I don't see how the Texans go into Foxboro and beat the Patriots in January.
Prediction: Patriots 37 Texans 24
Other headlines from Thursday
Late Thursday night, the Cleveland Browns made a surprising announcement on their next head coach. They hired Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski to be their next head coach. Wait what? That's not the glamorous name that we heard Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was chasing. Chudzinski though is familiar with the Browns having been an offensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008 and was an assistant with the team in 2004 as well. He's from Toledo, Ohio, and he coached Cam Newton who looked much better the second half of the year for the Panthers. Have to think that Browns fans aren't entirely enthusiastic about this choice, but we'll see how it all pans out.
Jacksonville fired head coach Mike Mularky Thursday after one season in which he went 2-14. New GM David Caldwell will be looking for a new coach soon. Someone he won't be looking to bring in on the player side is Tim Tebow. Caldwell repeatedly dismissed the idea that Tebow would come to Jacksonville. I believe Tebow, when given a legit opportunity, can help a team win. Jacksonville was the perfect place for him, maybe the only place. Now, where will Tebow land? Will another team give him a chance? I'd like to think so, but I just don't know.
And finally, there are two remaining undefeated teams in college basketball as Oregon knocked off previously unbeaten #4 Arizona 70-66 Thursday night. Boise State beat unbeaten Wyoming the other night. Oregon looked awfully impressive in this game. They will definitely be around when the Pac-12 championship comes around and maybe make it to March. The lone two unbeatens, Duke and Michigan, both have some challenges ahead. Duke plays NC State on Saturday and Michigan plays at Ohio State.
Coming up Monday: NFL Divisional playoff reaction