What to watch for Divisional Round edition

What to watch for in the Divisional Round

1/10/14 in NFL   |   droth   |   127 respect

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Q
What Divisional Round game are you most excited for?
Seattle vs. New Orleans
Patriots vs. Colts
Panthers vs. 49ers
Broncos vs. Chargers
Before last week's games, I highlighted a few factors that would go a long way towards deciding the Wild Card matchups. And now, less than 24 hours before the best weekend of the NFL season kicks off, it's time to look ahead to the round of eight.

Seahawks Passing Attack

The Saints have been thinking about this opportunity for a while now. They got absolutely embarrassed in Seattle in week 13 and have looked ahead to a potential rematch ever since. Much of the talk this week has been about that redemption story; can Sean Payton rally his troops and can Drew Brees figure out away to solve the Seahawks secondary. But looking at how Seattle and New Orleans have gone about their business so far this season, a different and potentially more important matchup reveals itself.

In the Seahawks eight home games, they've gone 7-1. Three of those games, including the lone loss, have been close games (ARI, TB, TEN) while the remaining five got pretty ugly for the visitors (STL, NO, MIN, JAX, SF). You'd think that in the blowouts, Seattle would have dominated every aspect of the game. But, in fact, Seattle's defense and running game are, for the most part, always good at home. What differentiates the blowouts from the competitive games is Seattle's ability to move the ball with ease and score, specifically through the air.

In the blowouts, Seattle is scoring 35.2 points per game compared to 19 in the close games.The Seahawks are actually rushing for more yardage in close games than they are in the blowouts, where the passing game has been instrumental in running up the score.

On the other side of the ball, New Orleans has been among the NFL's best all season in pass defense. They've only allowed two 300-yard passers (Russell Wilson and Jay Cutler) all year and, with Keenan Lewis expected to suit up, the Saints have a chance to right the ship if they can minimize Wilson's effectiveness in the passing game. It's going to be very hard for the Saints to pull off the upset, but if they do, I expect their secondary to be the main reason why.

Colts Hangover

Andrew Luck and the Colts are coming off of a win for the ages. They pulled out a thrilling 45-44 victory against the Chiefs, giving Luck his fourth fourth-quarter comeback on the year.

Jan 4, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) dives into the end zone for a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the 2013 AFC wild card playoff football game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY SportsBut looking at the Colts trajectory this season, last week's thrilling victory could mean danger ahead for Indy. Their three other fourth-quarter comebacks this season came against Oakland in Week 1, Seattle in Week 5, and Houston in Week 9. Want to guess what happened in each of their games following the fourth-quarter comeback? Yeah, that's right, they lost. Those losses came to Miami, St. Louis, and San Diego -- not exactly a murderer's row.

In each of those three losses, the Colts got down early. It's hard to imagine a team led by Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano will have a problem getting up for a playoff game, but it will be interesting to see how Indy looks coming out of the gate. And with Bill Belichick's impressive record coming off of a bye, it's conceivable that New England will simply jump on Indianapolis early, just like Miami, St. Louis, and San Diego did. 
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