Our professional NFL consultant breaks down the quarterbacking matchups in this weekend’s upcoming Divisional Playoffs games to help you gain an edge for your NFL picks.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots
Alex Smith has quietly had a solid season for the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s thrown 3676 yards, completed 65.9% of his passes, threw for 21 touchdown passes, and was intercepted just eight times. The most overlooked part of Smith’s game is his mobility. He’s rushed for 498 yards, ran for two scores, and his ability to extend plays with his legs has become a huge asset for Kansas City’s offense.
I can write a 2000 page book about Tom Brady’s accomplishments in his illustrious NFL career. When it comes to postseason experience and success, none of the other seven remaining starting quarterbacks in the NFL Playoffs can come remotely close. I do have a slight concern about the high angle sprain he suffered during the regular season finale against Miami. The good news, he’s had two weeks to recover between games.
It’s meant as no disrespect whatsoever to Alex Smith, but the edge in this quarterback matchup clearly favors Tom Brady. However, it’s not as huge of a disparity, than it would’ve been earlier this season. In any event, you just can’t ignore what Brady brings to the table at this time of the year when making your NFL picks.
Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals
There are some that would argue that Aaron Rodgers has endured a down year. That very well may be the case from a statistical standpoint, but I believe he’s been great once again with all things considered. After all, he lost his top vertical threat in wide receiver Jordie Nelson before the regular season even began. He’s also received not much support from the Packers running game. Despite being handcuffed in the regard, Rodgers has thrown for 3821 yards, 33 touchdowns, and was picked off only 8 times. Rodgers mobility is vastly underrated, and he ran for 344 yards as well this season. His ability to escape pressure, and buy more time for his receivers to get open, puts an enormous amount of stress on opposing defenses.
Carson Palmer has enjoyed a terrific season for the NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals. The former Heisman Trophy winner from USC has thrown for a whopping 4671 yards, 35 touchdowns, and was intercepted on just eleven occasions. Unlike his quarterbacking adversary in this matchup, Palmer has very little mobility, and is your prototypical drop back passer.
There’s not a stark contrast in styles when comparing these quarterbacks, but there’s some difference nonetheless. Rodgers mobility has come in handy this season considering the Packers wide receivers have been less than impressive all year. On the other hand, Palmer’s lack of elusiveness hasn’t been a detriment due to a very good group of wide receivers at his disposal. In my humble opinion, there’s no clear cut edge for either quarterback in this game. Saturday’s outcome will be decided in some other facet of the game.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers
This is far and away the most intriguing quarterback matchup of the four games this upcoming weekend. Both Russell Wilson (583 YDS/I TD) and Cam Newton (636 YDS/10 TDS) are dynamic runners in addition to being extremely elusive. When comparing the two, Russell Wilson is a more accurate passer (68.1%) than Cam Newton (59.7%) by a wide margin. Newton unequivocally is the more imposing physical specimen, and he often uses that asset to extend drives.
Cam Newton should be hands down the Most Valuable Player in the NFL this season. However, he’s still a bit unproven in the playoffs at this juncture of his career. You can’t underestimate the fact that Russell Wilson has quarterbacked his team to two straight Super Bowls, and has gained vast experience over the past four postseasons. It’s for that reason alone that I’m giving Wilson a slight edge over Newton.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos
This is the one game this weekend which possesses a large degree of uncertainty pertaining to the quarterback position. Let’s start with what we do know. Peyton Manning will make the start for Denver. The future “Hall of Famer” missed six games in the second half of the season due to a foot injury. Even when healthy, Manning was suffering through the worst season of his absolute stellar career, throwing for just 9 touchdowns against 17 interceptions during nine starts. He clearly lacks the arm strength that he once possessed, and in terms of his current health it’s iffy at best.
Ben Roethlisberger sustained an injury to his throwing shoulder in the second half of Pittsburgh’s Wild Card Round win at Cincinnati last Saturday. He was able to return for the Steelers winning drive in that contest, but clearly was hindered by the injury. That march down the field consisted of screen passes and short throws, in addition to being aided by two 15 yard personal foul penalties on Cincinnati. He’s currently listed as probable, but one gets the feeling with one good hit by an aggressive Denver defensive unit, and his day will be done. If that’s the case, second string quarterback Landry Jones will be forced into action, and I can’t think of any possible scenario in which that would benefit Pittsburgh.
You can be rest assured that NFL odds on this contest will be and have been affected in some way, shape, or form due to the quarterbacking question marks for both sides. If you put the proverbial gun to my head, I’d give an ever so slight edge to Denver regarding this category.