Punch Drunk Wonderland

Playoffs – AFC Divisional Round

NFL Playoffs, AFC Divisional RoundAfter a relatively unexciting Wild Card Weekend, we now find ourselves facing the Divisional Round of the playoffs. We’ll be doing a 2 post look at the AFC and NFL matchups separately.

#3 Houston Texans @ #2 New England Patriots

The Texans redeemed themselves a bit in Wild Card Weekend as they were able to relatively soundly beat the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a much needed boost after they had been on a rough skid for the last several weeks. However, Cincy may not necessarily have been a frying pan, but New England certainly is the fire. This Divisional Round matchup is going to be rough for the Texans.

New England has the league’s #1 offense and have been putting up an average of 34.8 points per game. Brady and company have been lighting defenses up all season, and that could be bad news for an ailing Houston defensive squad. The Patriots were where the Texans’ skid began in the regular season as New England beat them up 42-14 in their Week 14 meeting.

Houston looked much more solid in Wild Card Weekend than they had in previous weeks. They have to remain solid in three facets of the game to stay in this one versus the Pats. Quarterback, Matt Schaub, is going to need to be smart with the football and make accurate passes, Foster is going to need to run with consistency and success, and the struggling Texans defense will have to step up big to at least partially fend off the Patriots points deluge.

For New England…they need to put the pedal to the floor. Their defense gives up a good deal of yards, but a lot of that has been a product of teams playing from behind. The Patriots need to play decent defense, and as long as they can continue to pile on points they have the definitive advantage in this one.

Fantasy Focus:

Tom Brady (QB, Patriots)

Brady has been solid in 2012 and there is no reason to think he won’t have another strong game against the Texans. In their Week 17 matchup Brady threw for 296 yards and 4 touchdowns. If he can have that kind of production again, Houston is in trouble.

Arian Foster (RB, Texans)

It’s clear that much of Houston’s success stems from it’s run game. A large reason why they struggled in the last several weeks of the season was because the run game wasn’t as successful as it had been earlier in the season. That said, Arian Foster is a beast and can always break out. The zone blocking scheme has worked well for the Texans in 2012, but Belichick’s defensive scheming has the potential to shut it down. In their Week 14 matchup Foster only ran for 46 yards. They have to have more running success if they want to win this time around.


#4 Baltimore Ravens @ #1 Denver Broncos

Baltimore looked good in their win over the Indianapolis Colts in Wild Card Weekend. However, they also turned the ball over several times. This week they will be facing a Denver Broncos team that will not fall to convert turnovers into points as the Colts did last week. The Broncos are the #4 offense in the NFL this season in total scoring, and Peyton Manning has been carving up defenses. Baltimore will need to put up a strong performance to have a shot in this one.

These two team met up in Week 15 in a game that Denver dominated. The Ravens will need to continue to feed off of Ray Lewis’s motivating retirement run in order to stay on top of the Broncos offense. The larger issue for the Ravens is going to be staying competitive in the scoreboard game. The Broncos can and will score points, and Baltimore will need to make the most of their opportunities.

Much like in the other AFC matchup of the weekend, the Broncos need to just keep the pedal down. They have a stout defense with a great pass rush, and their offense rarely have problems finding the endzone. They will need to make sure Manning stays clean and protect the football.

Fantasy Focus

Peyton Manning (QB, Broncos)

Manning has been his old signal caller self in 2012, and he’s been very successful at putting his offense in a position to have the right play called versus most defenses. Baltimore doesn’t have their defense of old, but they can be opportunistic. If he stays smart with the ball, then he and his team should have a big day.

Denver Broncos DST

The performances of the respective defenses are going to tell a lot in the outcome of the game. Denver’s defense has been solid for most of the season, and they have a terrifying pass rush with Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. Ravens QB, Joe Flacco, isn’t the best at handling pressure. If they can keep pressure on him they will likely create mistakes and plenty of opportunities for turnovers.

Baltimore Ravens DST

The Ravens aren’t the solid defense of old, but they have the big four in Ngata, Lewis, Suggs, and Reed back for the playoffs. Granted, the group is aging and this is Ray’s last hurrah. But, they are wanting to put up a strong performance in his retirement run. If they can confuse Peyton Manning, pressure him, and force some turnovers they should be able to give their offense a chance.

K. Smelser About K. Smelser
Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine...