NFL Playoff Predictions: What Surprises Will Divisional Round Offer?

Stephen FenechCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2013

Expect a huge game from Colin Kaepernick.
Expect a huge game from Colin Kaepernick.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

While the majority of the attention is focused on the premier players remaining in the playoffs, the outcomes of the Divisional Round will be greatly influenced by surprise performances. 

The surprises the Divisional Round will offer will be picked apart endlessly come Monday morning.

The tough part is anticipating which surprises are right around the corner because they aren't surprises for no reason. 

Anyone could predict a huge game from Peyton Manning against the Baltimore Ravens, so where's the fun in that? 

The NFL favors the bold, which is something the following potential surprises certainly are.

Colin Kaepernick will score more touchdowns than the rest of the quarterback on Saturday.

This one is pretty bold considering Colin Kaepernick will be facing off against Aaron Rodgers, and Peyton Manning will be opening up the Divisional Round in Saturday's first game. 

Of all the defenses playing on Saturday, the Packers have the weakest unit which will aid in Kaepernick's big game. Rodgers will have to contend with the ferocious 49ers defense, while Manning will face off against an opportunistic Ravens defense. 

Jim Harbuagh and the 49ers coaching staff will look to get Kaepernick into a rhythm early with plenty of easy passes and read-options. 

Kaepernick is more of a big play threat than Alex Smith was, which is exactly why he is the teams starter. Harbaugh inserted Kaepernick into the starting lineup for games like this one. 

I fully expect the 49ers to take shots on big plays because of how dangerous the Packers offense can be. Harbaugh and his coaching staff know how quickly Green Bay can score points, which will result in a big day for Kaepernick. 

The Seattle Seahawks will hold the Atlanta Falcons under 17 points.

The Atlanta Falcons had the seventh-ranked scoring offense this season averaging 26.2 points per contest. 

The Seattle Seahawks employed the best scoring defense in the league by far. They surrendered an average of 15.3 points per game, which was almost two points less per game than the second-ranked San Francisco 49ers. 

To stop Atlanta, the defense must be able to slow down Julio Jones and Roddy White, which is a very tall task. However, the Seahawks are one of the few teams that have the personnel to do it. With Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner at cornerback, Jones and White are in store for their toughest challenge of the season. 

Seattle's defense was dealt a blow when they lost Chris Clemons in the Wild Card round, but I envision Bruce Irvin filling in fine in terms of rushing the passer. 

The Falcons crossed the 20-point plateau in all but two of their games, but they fail to cross the mark against the Seahawks. 

Ben Tate will outrush Arian Foster 

Arian Foster put together a solid season despite averaging just 4.1 yards per carry, which was ranked 23rd in the NFL. 

The Houston Texans ran Foster a lot this season, leading the league in rushing attempts. He must be worn down after slogging through a physical regular season and would benefit from some more rest in-game. 

When the Texans traveled to Foxboro to play the New England Patriots in Week 14, Foster was held to just 46 yards on 15 carries. Ben Tate had an efficient day though, compiling 46 yards on just eight carries. 

With the season on the line, Gary Kubiak will look to give Tate more rushes if Foster isn't looking fresh. 

Tate has less mileage on his body at the moment, and he will be efficient and productive against the Pats.