Divisional Round predictions by Quinn Trask and Reid Conant


Quinn Trask and Reid Conant

Game 1. Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots. Saturday, January 16th. 4:35 P.M. Eastern Time

Key Matchup: Brady vs. KC Defense that forced 5 turnovers against the Texans last week. Patriots banged up offensive line vs. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali

Things to watch for throughout the week: Tom Brady is nursing an ankle injury, Jeremy Maclin (ankle), Julian Edelman (foot).

Q’s Pick: Kansas City

Tom Brady usually finds a way but I don’t see it happening this weekend in Foxborough. Marcus Peters and Sean Smith have been lockdown and Eric Berry has been a feel good story as well as an All-Pro safety this season. Peters and Smith will have to focus on the freshly activated Julian Edelman who looks to gain back the ground he missed. Rob Gronkowski will have a huge game but the KC offense has been great with young backs Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West and tight end Travis Kelce to even him out. Kansas City is coming off a big confidence booster after they routed the Houston Texans 30-0 and forced 5 turnovers against a lack-lustered Texans offense. If Jeremy Maclin plays, I strongly believe that the Chiefs will pull off the upset.

Reid’s Pick: New England

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick simply find ways to win in the playoffs. Even though the Chiefs have won 11 straight games, I think their luck will run out against an explosive Patriots offense. The only way the Chiefs win this game is if they control the clock and run the ball all over the Patriots defense. If Edelman returns, it would set up a crucial matchup between him and Marcus Peters, the rookie Pro Bowl corner. Rob Gronkowski will be contained this week with a tough matchup against the Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry. Julian Edelman will return in big fashion and will have a huge game and help the Patriots reach their 5th straight AFC championship game.


Game 2. Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals. Saturday, January 16th. 8:15 P.M. Eastern Time.

Key Matchup: Arizona secondary vs. Rodgers

Cardinals gave up 38 points in the last regular season game against Seattle with no Tyrann Mathieu, key part of their defense

Things to watch for throughout the week: DaVante Adams injured his knee last weekend and his status has not been updated. Left tackle David Bakhtiari (ankle) didn’t play last week, starting.

Q’s Pick: Arizona

The Green Bay Packers haven’t been the Green Bay Packers this year. Aaron Rodgers had a mediocre season without his right hand man Jordy Nelson and a banged up Randall Cobb. Carson Palmer looks like his 2002 Heisman self and Larry Fitzgerald has been reborn with a healthy Palmer. Arizona also sports one of the best defenses in the league with superstar cornerback Patrick Peterson and young stud Deone Bucannon. They also have a stellar defensive line with Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker. I see Arizona taking this one by a double digit margin.

Reid’s Pick: Arizona

The Cardinals are clearly the better team, and showed this in a week 16 matchup against the Packers when they beat them 38-8 at home. The Cardinals defense scored 2 touchdowns and forced 4 turnovers. The Packers were dominated from the get-go and were frankly embarrassed the last time these 2 played. This week will be different, it will be a lot closer game but I still think that the Cardinals are the better team with an outstanding offense run by head coach Bruce Arians. Carson Palmer is having an incredible year and is in the MVP race. Cardinals are missing a big part in their defense this time around however, Tyrann Mathieu has been amazing this year. With his absence the Cardinals aren’t as good on defense but they still have a strong defensive line and an elite corner in Patrick Peterson. The Packers offensive line has struggled a ton the last half of the season and this week will be no different. Dwight Freeney and Calais Campbell will put lots of pressure on Aaron Rodgers which will cause many turnovers. The Cardinals win this game and advance to the NFC Championship for the first time with Head Coach Bruce Arians.


Game 3. Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers. Sunday, January 17th. 1:05 Eastern Time.

Key Matchup: Carolina D. vs Red Hot Seahawks offense

Run game will be invisible with Fred Jackson and Christine Michael, Josh Norman set to lock down Baldwin/ Lockett

Things to watch for throughout the week: Marshawn Lynch’s status, practiced all week last week but didn’t play

Q’s Pick: Carolina

Carolina plays with an undeniable swagger that the Seahawks will have to try and overcome. Cam Newton has had a MVP caliber season backed by his elite defense. Josh Norman is debatebly the best corner in the league and Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis are in the top tier of linebackers. Sure Russell Wilson is coming off a remarkable run down the stretch with receivers Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett breaking out and tearing up opposing secondaries. And one can’t forget about the LOB with Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas III, but Carolina has been unstoppable all season and they are too deep and too talented for the back to back NFC champions.  

Reid’s Pick: Carolina

This will be the best game of the weekend. The difference will be Carolina’s defense and Cam Newton. Cam Newton is having an incredible season and deserves the MVP award no doubt. These 2 teams do not like each other and last year they met in the playoffs and the Seahawks beat them 31-17 at home. The Seahawks will have a much tougher time this year on the road against maybe the best team in the NFL. Panthers have been missing crucial parts to their offense throughout the season but they have had the “next man up” mentality. This game will be more about what the Panthers do rather than how the last 2 seasons have been for the Seahawks. Even though some people might say the Seahawks are a “hot” team, I think that their luck will run out against Carolina. The Seattle defense may be able to stop Cam Newton for a quarter or two but I don’t see them shutting him down the entire game. It is the Panthers time and they are clearly the better team with an unstoppable QB and 3 incredible defensive stars. Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and Josh Norman are looking to fly all over the place and dominate. The difference will be Carolina’s defense, as they lead the Panthers to their first NFC Championship since John Fox coached them in 2005.


Game 4. Denver Broncos vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. Sunday, January 17th. 4:40 P.M. Eastern Time.

Key Matchup: Denver Defense vs. Steeler Offense

Loss of Antonio Brown, Deangelo Williams, Banged Up Big Ben

Things to watch for throughout the week: DeAngelo Williams and Antonio Brown’s status. Darian Stewart and Chris Harris Jr. injury status.

Q’s Pick: Denver

Denver should have no problem going through the 6 seeded Steelers. The Steelers are without star running backs Le’veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams and likely super star receiver Antonio Brown. Ben Roethlisberger banged up his throwing shoulder again on a Vontaze Burfict sack. Denver’s secondary and elite linebacker core should be able to feast on an offense that is missing its best weapons. If both Chris Harris Jr. and Darian Stewart play, the remaining Steelers’ weapons will be put on mute. What won’t be on mute will be Denver’s electric fans which will have no problem with the weather and will look to cause Pittsburgh to use timeouts early and cause major miscommunications when trying to audible. Denver has been effective when they blitz which Big Ben struggles against. The Broncos need to use their Mile High advantage to wear down the Steelers unconditioned defense and Peyton Manning’s audible calling to run the no huddle offense to perfection. If the Broncos can do all this, they will host the AFC championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Reid’s Pick: Denver

Denver’s Defense should dominate this week with a banged up Steeler offense. A healthy Peyton Manning against a sub-par Pittsburgh secondary should help the Broncos offense. Broncos offensive line has struggled to pass protect this season, look for the Broncos to try and get the ball out of Peyton’s hands quick and fast to try and counter the blitz that the steelers will run the whole game. Look for Von Miller, Demarcus Ware, Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson to put lots of pressure on Big Ben and Wade Phillips to dial up the blitz and make sure Big Ben doesn’t feel comfortable in the pocket. The key for the Broncos Defense will be to keep Big Ben in the pocket because he is very dangerous throwing the ball down the field when he escapes the pocket. The gameplan should be very similar to the way the Broncos played the Packers back in week 8. Look for the Broncos offense to try and use the no huddle offense with Peyton to try and wear down the Steeler Defense.