NFL Playoffs – The 8 Teams in the Divisional Round

After resting up in the bye week the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos are joined by teams that worked in the Wild Card round: Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers to form the Elite Eight remaining in the NFL Playoffs.

For the Broncos and Colts it’s a rematch from earlier this season. For the Panthers and Seahawks as well. For the Patriots and Ravens this is just another episode in their long history of meeting in the playoffs, with the winner often going to the Super Bowl. The Cowboys and Packers? Everyone is thinking about the 1967 NFL championship game, immortalized as the ice bowl.

Baltimore Ravens

Torrey Smith

Previous game: Won 30-17 in Pittsburgh against the Steelers (Wild Card round).

Next game: On the road against the New England Patriots.

More: If there’s one team you should like heading into New England, the Ravens should be them. They won their last playoff visit there, eventually winning the Super Bowl. They were one field goal from sending the game into overtime a year earlier on the same stage. Their defense is clicking, sacking Roethlisberger five times in the win and forcing two interceptions out of him. And Joe Flacco? According to his coach, he’s the best in the NFL. Maybe that’s exaggerating, but he did throw a couple of touchdown passes and was almost impossible to get to during the win.

Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers

Previous game: A 27-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Next game: On the road against the Seattle Seahawks.

More: The Panthers beat an AFC West team that will be nothing like the one they meet next weekend. The Cardinals were held to only 78 offensive yards, the worst offensive performance by any team in the history of the postseason, but the Seahawks won’t be so easy to slow down, and mistakes like Carolina made will be punished more frequently in Seattle. However, their style and newly found confidence and aggression on defense might help them in a game that will be decided in the trenches.

Dallas Cowboys

Tony Romo

Previous game: Beat the Detroit Lions 24-20.

Next game: On the road against the Green Bay Packers.

More: The Dallas Cowboys didn’t win the way they thought it would go down. The offensive line needed time to pick up the blitzes, almost costing them the game. Romo was sacked six times and DeMarco Murray was held to only 75 yards. But the Cowboy still got their big plays and  got some on the defensive side of the ball as well with three forced turnovers. That defense is going to need to make some stops in order to make their visit to the Frozen Tundra better than it has been in recent years for them.

Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck

Previous game: Bye week.

Next game: Indianapolis Colts, playing at home.

More: The Broncos opened the season against the Colts, beating them 31-24 after taking a 24-0 lead. Manning in that time was playing like a man obsessed. Things have changed since then. More touches to C.J. Anderson and a lot more mistakes and bad games from Manning himself. Luck threw two interceptions in that game and is a bit more careless on the road.

Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson

Previous game: Bye week.

Next game: Dallas Cowboys at home.

More: The Packers beat the Cowboys on their last three meetings, including holding them to just 7 points in 2009 and again in 2010 when playing in Green Bay. There’s been a lot of discussion about Rodgers and Romo regarding their numbers this year and who deserves the MVP more. The Packers are 8-0 at home this season, with Rodgers not throwing a single interception and putting up a 133.2 passer rating.

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck

Previous game: Beating the Cincinnati Bengals 26-10.

Next game: On the road against the Denver Broncos.

More: The Colts didn’t exactly ride all over the Bengals, but Andrew Luck didn’t make any big mistakes and threw one impressive touchdown pass while being brought down in the third quarter. He threw two interceptions in the week 1 loss to the Broncos, and in order to avoid another divisional round playoff loss, he’ll need to stay away from the mistakes early on for the game to be within reach in the first half.

New England Patriots

Rob Gronkowski

Previous game: Bye week.

Next game: Ravens at home.

More: The Patriots are 8-0 at home this season. One of the things the Patriots need to avoid is a close game, because Tom Brady has been completing only 55.6% of his passes with a 83.7 passer rating in the fourth quarter this season when the margin is just one touchdown.

Seattle Seahawks

Russel Wilson throw

Previous game: Bye week.

Next game: Carolina Panthers at home.

More: For two years in a row the Seahawks travel to Charlotte and narrowly beat the Panthers. Carolina are simply built in a similar way, only with less talent and quality on both sides of the ball, but can be very disruptive to the Seahawks. But as bad as the Panthers make the Seahawks look, pulling them down to their own level, it works even more strongly on the other side. Newton was held to just 12-of-22 for 171 yards and an interception in this year’s 13-9 loss.

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