Some things to watch for:
Patriots at Broncos
If you remember the first time they met this season, the Broncos jumped out to a big lead, and then the Patriots came roaring back to win in overtime. The game was a tale of two halves and of turnovers. New England could not hang onto the ball in the first half, and Denver took full advantage of their mistakes. The story totally flipped in the second half with Denver turning the ball over and the New England offense scoring at will. The AFC division title game, should feature a little more consistency by both teams.
For Denver, last year was a year of getting comfortable with their new personnel. This year, there are no excuses. Anything less than the Super Bowl would be a disappointment for the Broncos. Their record-setting offense this year did not carry over to an underwhelming performance in the first playoff game against the San Diego Chargers, and they have their work cut out for them against the very talented Patriots. Denver has home field advantage and they will to make the most of this by trying to disrupt Brady and the Patriots offense, while at the same time keeping the pedal to the floor and continuing to score touchdowns. Denver’s defense has also been hurt by injuries this year, but do not look for them to point fingers. They will look to make New England try to earn each first down and shut the run game down for the Patriots.
49ers vs Seahawks
The Seahawks have a distinct advantage playing at home, and only one team has been able to overcome that advantage in the last two years. Seattle is able to feed off the crowd and take advantage of the lack of communication they are able to create with a loud atmosphere. The Seahawks defense has been stifling at home and creates pressure that allows their talented defensive backfield to take advantage of poor decisions by opposing team QB's. Offensively, Seattle has been riding the shoulders of Marshawn Lynch and QB Russell Wilson. Wilson has struggled throwing the ball in the playoffs, but he has not panicked and is willing to punt and allow his defense to come out and play. Many times in a game, the opposing defense thinks they have Wilson sacked and he finds a way to escape and create a big play that makes the difference in the game. His composure is admirable and will help his team against the 49ers!
San Francisco took the Wild Card path to this point and won their first two games on the road at Green Bay and Carolina. The 49ers believe they are a different team than the team that lost in Seattle during the regular season. Michael Crabtree has returned and emerged as a reliable WR to compliment Anquan Boldin. Their TE Vernon Davis was injured and ineffective but has returned, plus their QB who struggled earlier in the season is now playing with the confidence that took the team to the Super Bowl in 2013. San Francisco also has a very talented defense. San Francisco will bring in one of the best LB groups ever assembled and a very aggressive defensive line.
Between the dynamics of the QB's, the talents of star players, and the rivalries between teams and coaches, there are plenty of reasons to be excited for the Division Championship games! Enjoy this great weekend in the NFL!