Here are my predictions for the second round of the playoffs.
SAN FRANCISCO (5) VS CAROLINA (2)
The last time these two met, the 49ers had injuries to Vernon Davis, Ray McDonald. Aldon Smith was limited in snaps following his return from rehab and Michael Crabtree wasn’t playing. This 49ers team is different from the one that lost to the Panthers 10-9 in Week 10.
But does that mean the Panthers have no chance? The Panthers defense still pose a great threat to the 49ers’ passing game. Their secondary plays well and the pass rush is what gave Colin Kaepernick his worst performance of the year. If the Panthers can get the pressure on Kaepernick, then that just puts more pressure on the run game to bail the offense out.
Cam Newton makes his playoff debut and he has a lot of pressure on him to succeed. If Steve Smith is not at full strength, that means Newton has to make a lot out of his receiving weapons that is good, but not elite. Also, the running game for the Panthers has to set the tone against a stout 49ers defense.
The 49ers are on a roll right now and it’s hard to see them not playing their style of ball against the Panthers this time around. Carolina has a lot on their plate and can match up, but I don’t see the 49ers falling away from their hot streak.
49ERS WIN 20-10
SAN DIEGO (6) VS DENVER (1)
Normally in any other No. 6 vs No. 1 matchup, I will give the top seed the edge. However, a battle between two division rivals in which they split the season series, it’s not that easy. The decision is tough because the Chargers offense has been playing fantastic. Not only has the passing game excelled, but you have to look at Ryan Mathews and the running game improving.
Of course, the tough challenge is to match the scoring of the Broncos. The Chargers defense can pressure Peyton Manning, but the Broncos are on a big high right now that it’s hard to see them falter. The receivers are all very dangerous weapons for Manning and Knowshon Moreno is also playing really well for the Denver passing attack.
So what will be the difference between these two teams? It might all come down to the turnovers and time of possession. If the Chargers lead in both categories, then they give themselves a chance to take down the Broncos. However, it’s hard to see the Broncos’ offense shut down in this game. It’ll be close, but the Broncos are still too much.
BRONCOS WIN 28-24