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Prisco's Picks: Week 19

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Senior NFL Columnist
Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and can be seen throughout the week on CBS Sports' NFL shows. When he's not watching game tape you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015
The Ravens are 2-1 against the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady Patriots at Foxborough in the playoffs. That's telling, and they were close to winning the third game. The Ravens know how to win up there. They are tough and they get after Brady. In the three playoff games against the Ravens, Brady has three touchdown passes and seven interceptions. That's awful. He has to be better. But I think he will be. This Ravens team has issues in the secondary. So even with a good pass rush, there will be chances for Brady down the field. Joe Flacco is now 10-4 in the playoffs and seems to elevate his game come playoff time. In the three playoff games against the Patriots, Flacco has five touchdown passes and two picks. He only threw 10 passes in one of the victories as the Ravens ran it right at the Patriots. New England was 19th in sacks per pass play this season, so there should be chances to make plays deep for Flacco, which is his strength. The Ravens will keep this close, but in the end I think Brady will make the plays to pull the game out.
Result: New England Patriots 35, Baltimore Ravens 31
New England
This is a rematch of the Week 8 meeting won by the Seahawks 13-9 in Carolina. Seattle has beaten the Panthers three times in the past three years by a total of 13 points. This Carolina offense is much better now than the one that took the field in Week 8. The line was a mess then, and it's now a group that has started the past six games together. That matters. But this is a huge challenge for a relatively young line with that Seattle crowd noise. It will be interesting to see how many false starts we have for Carolina. The Seahawks were without middle linebacker Bobby Wagner in the first game, but he's back. That's huge. He is key to what they do on defense. The Carolina defense has really improved over the past month as well. They finished 21st in scoring defense for the season, but in the past month they have been much better. The pass rush has come alive. They face a tough challenge in the Seattle running game. If they can slow that, and keep Russell Wilson in the pocket, they will have a chance. That's tough to do. Wilson is electrifying at times when he gets outside the pocket. The ends have to be aware of their rush lanes. Cam Newton doesn't have a bevy of weapons, but Kelvin Benjamin is a big target and Greg Olsen can create problems in the middle of the field. I would look for the Panthers to attack a lot inside with Olsen. And, of course, try and run it. Like Wilson, Cam Newton can be dangerous on the move. In the end, I think Seattle will pull this out to get to the title game. Like the last three between these teams, it won't be easy.
Result: Seattle Seahawks 31, Carolina Panthers 17
Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015
This is the first time these two will meet in a playoff game in Green Bay since the 1967 Ice Bowl. This won't be that cold, but it will be chilly with temperatures in the teens. That could impact the Cowboys' passing game. But remember Tony Romo is from Wisconsin. This has all the makings of a shootout. You have two dynamic offenses and two so-so defenses. The Cowboys will pound DeMarco Murray behind his good offensive line against a Green Bay defense that was 23rd against the run. That can also help keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. Look for Romo then to take shots off the play-action to Dez Bryant and his receivers. For Green Bay, it's all about Rodgers. He has 25 touchdown passes and no interceptions at home this season. That's unreal. The Cowboys aren't great on defense, and they were 29th in the league in sacks per pass play. That's not a good thing against Rodgers. Look for the Packers to put up a nice number on offense, while the Cowboys will try and keep up. In the end, I just don't think they will. It will be close. It will be fun. But it will be Green Bay moving on.
Result: Green Bay Packers 26, Dallas Cowboys 21
Green Bay
This is all about Andrew Luck vs. Peyton Manning, the young star versus the older one at quarterback. They can say all they want that this isn't about them, but it is. The Broncos weren’t the same pass-heavy team late in the season as they were last year and early this season. But that will change in the playoffs. It has to if they are to win a title. I think the Broncos will be able to have a lot of success throwing it against the Colts, who were 17th in pass yards per play on defense. That means Manning will be taking shots down the field. Indianapolis can score with Luck, but I just don't know if they can keep up. The Denver pass rushers should be able to get after him, especially with backup Joe Reitz in at right tackle. The Denver defense was first in the league in pass defense, a unit that can cover as well as rush. Add it all up, and I think the Broncos will win comfortably to advance to the title game.
Result: Denver Broncos 13, Indianapolis Colts 24
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