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NFL playoff picks: Seahawks, Patriots expected to win

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Get set for this weekend's Divisional round with our picks and predictions for each game.

We are down to the final eight teams in the NFL playoffs, primed for an entertaining Divisional round weekend of games filled with intriguing matchups and compelling storylines. The Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts each survived their Wild Card contests last week, advancing to face the conference's top seeds for the right to play in the AFC and NFC Championship games on Jan. 18.

The opening round of the playoffs was mostly chalk, with only the Ravens pulling off an upset by defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Despite the home teams this weekend opening as touchdown-or-more favorites in each Divisional round game, don't expect a sweep by the higher seeds. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in each conference haven't advanced to the conference championship in the same season since 2004.

The first game of the weekend pits the New England Patriots against the Ravens on Saturday afternoon in Foxborough. Winning at Gillette Stadium is one of the hardest things to do in the NFL, but the Ravens are probably the one team that won't be intimidated by playing a do-or-die game in New England. The Patriots are 1-2 at home in the postseason against the Ravens, and 11-1 in all other home playoff games under coach Bill Belichick.

The other Saturday game sets up as the most lopsided on paper with the Seattle Seahawks hosting the Panthers. The defending Super Bowl champs won five more games in the regular season than the Panthers and boast arguably the best home field advantage in the NFL, but this game could be a lot closer than the oddsmakers predict. These are two of the hottest teams in the league -- Seattle won its final six games of the regular season and Carolina is riding a five-game win streak -- and both are playing defense at an elite level down the stretch.

Sunday's action kicks off with the most competitive matchup of the weekend when the Cowboys head to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field for a showdown with the Green Bay Packers. Something's gotta give in this contest between the Cowboys, who were the league's only unbeaten team on the road, and the Packers, who finished as the NFC's lone 8-0 team at home. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that this will be the first postseason meeting between these storied franchises in Green Bay since the infamous "Ice Bowl" in 1967.

The final game of the weekend between the Colts and Denver Broncos features the most obvious storyline of the Divisional round as Peyton Manning faces his former team and Andrew Luck for the third time since heading west in 2012. The teams split the previous two meetings, both of which came in the regular season. Although the quarterbacks will likely get top billing in this contest, the game will probably be decided by several key matchups that aren't Luck vs. Manning.

As a reminder, these are picks to win the game (not against the spread), so choose wisely and do your research before making your own predictions this week:

Divisional Ryan Van Bibber Stephen White Joel Thorman David Fucillo Danny Kelly PFT Commenter Matt Ufford OddsShark Computer
CAR vs SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA SEA
DAL vs GB DAL GB GB DAL GB GB GB GB
BAL vs NE BAL NE NE NE NE NE NE NE
IND vs DEN DEN DEN DEN DEN DEN IND DEN DEN

Our panel consists of: David Fucillo, SB Nation's fantasy guru; Danny Kelly, SB Nation NFL contributor; PFT Commenter, SB Nation's hot takes expert; Joel Thorman, SB Nation NFL blogs manager; Matt Ufford, editorial producer, SB Nation studios; Ryan Van Bibber, SB Nation's NFL editor; and Stephen White, retired NFL defensive end and SB Nation NFL contributor.