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Fearless Rick's NFL Week division Picks - Early Games

Rick Gagliano | January 10-11, 2014

All times Eastern - Click here for late games.

Saturday, January 10

4:35 pm Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (-7, 47 1/2) - The Ravens advanced through the wild card round with a healthy, 30-17, road win at Pittsburgh in which QB Joe Flacco was nearly flawless, throwing for

There's considerable history between the two teams, including last season's late december, 41-7 mauling by the Patriots in Baltimore, which dashed the playoff hopes of the then-defending champion Ravens, dropping them from 8-6 to 8-7. The Ravens would lose the following week in Cincinnati, 34-17, ending their season without making the playoffs.

In the 2012 season, the Ravens' path to the Super Bowl went through New England, topping the Patriots in the AFC Championship, 28-13, after winning over Indianapolis and beating Denvre on the road, 38-35, in OT. The Ravens won the Super Bowl in New Orleans, with a 34-31 victory over the 49ers.

Also in 2012, the Ravens hosted the Patriots in week three of the regular season, winning 31-30. Both teams have made changes in the two ensuing years, though defensive schemes and quarterbacks - Tom Brady and Joe Flacco - remain constants.

Offensively, the Patriots have an edge, though slight. New England ranked fourth in points scored, at 29.3, but Baltimore was eighth, racking up 25.6 per game.

Baltimore has the advantage defensively. Their defense has jelled throughout the season, and was tied for second with the Eagles in sacks with 49. The Ravens will pressure Brady and their secondary should keep New England receivers under a blanket of coverage.

Justin Forsett, the Ravens' leading rusher, should give Baltimore some good second and third down situations, and Joe Flacco's calm in the pocket will keep drives alive.

The Patriots come into the game off a bye week after a loss to Buffalo in their season finale in which Tom Brady sat. Prior to that, they had won 10 of 11, the only loss a 26-21 setback at Green Bay. The Buffalo loss was their only defeat at home this season.

New England could win, though the Ravens have the look of a team that's not ready to hang up their spikes quite yet. Should the Pats come out on top, it probably wouldn't be by much, so taking the Ravens with points appears an attractive option.

Prediction: Ravens 27 Patriots 24

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8:15 pm Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks (-10 1/2, 40) - Even though the Panthers ended the regular season at 7-8-1, they did capture the NFC South for the second straight season and are red hot, having won five straight, including their division-clinching, 34-3, destruction of Atlanta and last week's 27-16 dismantling of the Arizona Cardinals in the opening round of the playoffs.

Quarterback Cam Newton has recently been key to victory, and, after throwing for 198 yards against Arizona, left the game without noticeable wear and tear. He should be naerly 100% against the Seahawks, and he'll need to be at the top of his game opposing the league's best defense.

Seattle allowed just 15.9 points per game and has been especially devastating to opponents the past six weeks, allowing, on average, just 6.5 points per game. In their run to the NFC West title and a 12-4 mark, the Seahawks crushed their divisional opponents, beating Arizona 19-3 and 35-6, and taking down the 49ers twice as well, 19-3 and 17-7.

After a 3-3 start to the season, the Seahawks went 9-1, the best record among remaining playoff teams. Over their last six games, the margin of victory has been by 15.8 points, an incredible statistic.

While the Panthers have been surging, the Seahawks have dominated and are looking to repeat their Super Bowl win from last season.

Carolina's defense has been solid of late, but the Panthers do not possess enough game-breaking players on offense to challenge the Seahawks through an entire sixty minutes, and, while Newton has been better, he's still going to come under pressure and likely make mistakes.

Seattle QB Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch spearhead a read-option offense that led the league in rushing by a wide margin, racking up 172.6 yards per game.

Seattle was 10th overall in scoring, putting up 24.6 points per game, whereas Carolina finished the regular season a pedestrian 19th, scoring, on average, 21.2 points per outing.

Seattle's patient offense and dominating style of defense should pave the way to a convincing victory. The Seahawks were 7-1 at home, and have won five straight in Seattle. Dallas defeated them, 30-23, back in October, for their last, and only, home loss.

Prediction: Seahawks 30 Panthers 13

All times Eastern - Click here for late games

Copyright 2014, 2015, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.



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