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NFL Playoff Time!


By: Jim Feist
Date: Jan 5, 2015
   
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by Jim Feist As the playoffs begin, those who earned the top two seeds in each conference have a key edge, as they get a bye the first week while watching the others duke it out. Sitting at home this past weekend were the Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks and Packers. Why is that significant? A year ago the 4 bye teams were the Broncos, Patriots, Seahawks and Panthers. The top AFC teams met in the title game, while the Seahawks went on to win the Super Bowl. Gaining the bye is an advantage for teams to not only rest injured players, but to have two weeks to put together a game plan. Since 1990, 36 first and second round seeds have filled 48 Super Bowl slots and the No. 1 and 2 seeds, rested after the bye, have gone 63-21 in their first games in the divisional round. A last three years the rested teams have gone 9-3 SU/5-7 ATS. Last year Carolina lost at home to the 49ers, but the other three teams won, including the Pats routing the Colts, 43-22. Two years ago the Pats blew out Houston, 45-28 and the 49ers roasted Green Bay, 45-21. The No. 1 seeded team in five of the last ten years in the NFC (Eagles, Seahawks, Bears, Saints, Seahawks) wound up in the Super Bowl. In the AFC it's been a different story, as the only recent No. 1 seeds to make it were the 2003, '07, '11 Patriots, the '09 Colts and last year’s Broncos. Four years ago the Pats lost to the NY Jets and two years ago Denver failed to win a game. Here's a look at the four teams that come into this weekend's playoff games rested with home field. Broncos (12-4 SU): Here they are again! Denver has QB Peyton Manning, but he is far off his record setting 2013 pace (51 TDs, 10 INTs) as the team looked for more balance on offense in the second half of the season, a curious move. GM John Elway keeps pointing out that he won his Super Bowls with balanced offenses, but the rules of the game were different then: they favor passing much more now, so why not play to your strength? It hasn’t been a dominating second half with losses to the Patriots (43-21), Rams (22-7) and Bengals (37-28). The defense, though, looks better than last season when they were depleted by injuries going into the postseason. For totals players, Denver is on a 33-13-1 run over the total at home, plus 43-21-1 over against the AFC. Patriots (12-4): New England was beat up with injuries and a bad defense one year ago but has completely flip-flopped. QB Tom Brady has top target TE Rob Gronkowski healthy and the offense has been balanced. New England has home field in the playoffs and is 8-0 ATS at home against a team with a winning road record. The defense has been the big story, adding CBs Brandon Browner and Darell Revis in the offseason, then picking up DT Alan Branch and LB Akeem Ayers in mid-season. All have helped to vastly improve the defense. The Patriots are on a 39-19-1 run over the total at home. Packers: (12-4): Hard to believe this team started 1-2 back in September, getting mauled by Seattle (36-16) and shut down by Detroit (19-7). QB Aaron Rodgers enjoyed an MVP season and RB Eddie Lacy provides balance, topping 1,000 yards again. The defense struggled badly against the run in the first half of the season, but has been tough down the stretch. That will help in a potential rematch with Seattle. In that opener, Seattle had 207 yards rushing and Green Bay had 255 total yards. Rodger did not throw Richard Sherman’s way once. The Pack is 34-16-2 ATS at Lambeau Field and 22-8-1 ATS against teams with winning records. Seahawks: (12-4): The Beast from the Northwest! Seattle used home field advantage and a pulverizing defense to win the Super Bowl last year and they have a shot to repeat. After some first half struggles with injuries and the Percy Harvin mess, Seattle got healthier on defense and has been dominating, top 5 against the run and the pass. On offense QB Russell Wilson (20 TDs, 7 INTs) is smart and mobile, making good decisions, and RB Marshawn Lynch is a workhorse on the NFL’s top-ranked ground attack. The linebacking corps is outstanding and the secondary is better, tops in the NFL at defending the pass for the second straight season. The Seahawks are 36-15-1 ATS against the NFC and 36-16-1 ATS in their last 54 home games! Looks like the NFC goes through Seattle this January -- again!
 

  Jim Feist
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