The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs are finally here, so the top seeds now have a chance to show their stuff. Here’s a few matchups you’ll want to keep an eye on while you’re watching the games this weekend:
Russell Wilson vs. Carolina’s Defensive Front: It’s no secret that Wilson has had his struggles against the Panthers in the past (and every other team with a decent defense), but this time Wilson has the home crowd to back him. The games between the Panthers and Seahawks have been very close in the past, and that’s mainly due to how poorly Wilson plays when he is unable to run freely. The only thing that makes Wilson a decent quarterback is his running threat. As a pocket passer Wilson is subpar. Obviously, Cam Newton is not expected to perform well in this game; but if Wilson isn’t able to score when his defense sets him up in a great position Carolina just might be able to pull the upset.
Baltimore’s Defense vs. Rob Gronkowski: The big story heading into this game is the problems that the Ravens have given the Patriots in the past. Well, the Pats defense is the best in the NFL this season; so they can expect a lot more opportunities to score this time around. The big thing in this game will be how the Patriots capitalize on these opportunities—in other words, can Rob Gronkowski get open. Everyone knows what Tom Brady has been able to do in his career without superstar receivers (absolutely nothing), so Gronk’s performance will determine whether or not the Patriots can advance past the red hot Ravens. If the Ravens are able to neutralize Gronkowski, they will be making their second AFC Championship Game in the last two seasons.
DeMarco Murray vs. Eddie Lacy: The Dallas Cowboys are travelling to Lambeau Field to take on the Green Bay Packers in the middle of January. This game is going to be cold, even in the middle of the day. Everyone knows that extreme cold favors the rushing game, so assuming temperatures don’t warm up a little bit this game could be very run heavy. If that is the case, the winner of this game could very easily be decided by which superstar running back manages more yards. Murray led the NFL in rushing yards by far this season, but the Packers are also a pass-first offense. Murray and Lacy are pretty equal talent-wise, so watching them go back and forth should make for an exciting game.