New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks: After going into blistering Philadelphia and winning their first road playoff game in team history, the New Orleans Saints advance in the playoffs to play the Seattle Seahawks. In Seattle.
That's your prize, New Orleans.
A team synonymous with underperforming on the road is tasked with facing the NFC's number one seed in the toughest stadium for an opponent to hear themselves, let alone actually win. Don't believe me? Just look at when these two teams met just over a month ago on Monday Night Football in week 13. The Seahawks beat down the Saints at CenturyLink Field on the primetime national stage, 34-7.
And the Seahawks are going to beat down the Saints at CenturyLink Field on the primetime national stage, again.
In that Monday night matchup, the premier Seattle defense held the Saints to 188 total yards on offense, and did a number on Drew Brees, limiting him to just 147 yards passing. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense wouldn't be outdone by their defense, though, as they surpassed 400 yards of offense and Wilson gained over 350 yards on his own and put three touchdowns on the board.
It's hard to imagine a result much different in Saturday's game either. While it's not wise to bank on a blowout of that magnitude when predicting a playoff game, I don't see this one being a nail-biter. While I congratulate Brees, Sean Payton and company for exercising their road-playoff demons, one road playoff win is enough for one season; let's not get greedy, guys.
But in all seriousness, picking against Seattle at home is just a request for ridicule. This team worked too hard to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and I don't see them squandering that away in their first game of the postseason. Seahawks 30, Saints 20.
Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots: ...
Sorry, I was still catching my breath from Indy's Wild Card win last week against Kansas City.
Andrew Luck and the Colts overcame a 28-point deficit to snatch a one-point victory from the jaws of defeat against the Chiefs. And now, a week later, the Colts travel to Foxboro to take on the Patriots in the weekend's only game featuring two teams meeting for the first time this season.
We saw two sides of Andrew Luck last week. There was the shortsighted Luck that we rarely see who threw three untimely interceptions, and there was the golden-armed leader that we're all accustomed to that accounted for four second-half touchdowns. And this week against New England, expect to see the latter-mentioned version of Luck for the full 60 minutes.
And before even talking about how they'll fare in the playoffs, much credit needs to be given to Tom Brady, love him or hate him. Yet another extremely successful season that included a division title and the AFC's number two seed, the New England signal-caller carried his team with a cast of mostly inexperienced targets.
That being said, this Patriots team doesn't seem nearly as intimidating going into the playoffs as New England squads of the past. It's hard to bet against Tom Brady, especially in the playoffs. But I'm going to. Why? Because I've got Luck on my side (pun very much intended).
Many are picking New England at home in this matchup; and I can't really blame them. But which seems like the tougher task? Beating the Patriots in Foxboro? Or beating the Chiefs after spotting them 28 points and only having less than a half to catch up?
Now, Indy's secondary will have to play much better than they did in the first half of last week's game. Because if not, Brady would be able to shred that defense with a couple of high-school receivers. But in the end, look for the Colts to pull the road upset. Indy will get the W because they're the more complete well-rounded team; it won't be because of luck... No wait, it will be because of Luck... Ugh, you get where I'm going here. Colts 34, Patriots 31.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers: Give the 49ers props for going on the road and beating the Green Bay Packers in the Arctic this past Sunday night. Now, though, this San Francisco squad must travel back to the site of their worst performance of the regular season when they meet Carolina Sunday afternoon.
In all actuality, both offenses left little to be desired; but the 49ers offense was completely neutralized in the 10-9 Panthers win. The Carolina defense held San Francisco to a measly 151 yards of offense and Colin Kaepernick to just 91 yards passing, while sacking him six times. Cam Newton wasn't much more impressive, as he threw for just 169 yards, and mirrored Kaepernick's output with no touchdowns and one interception.
The week 10 matchup saw both teams' running games carry the load and defenses shine. But Carolina's was just that much better on that day, and this game catapulted the Panthers tenacious defense into the limelight. That defense has never looked back, and I'm sure they'll feel they have something to prove being underdogs on their home field (for some reason I still don't understand).
This game is going to be another game in which the defenses take over and the running games play a vital role. However, the difference maker will be the play of the quarterbacks. This season, we've seen Newton play with more poise than ever before. If I have to bet on one quarterback making a mistake or two in this weekend's game, my money's on Kaepernick. He has a huge arm, and trusts it a bit too much sometimes. I'll take the home team, their quarterback and their defense in this game. Panthers 20, 49ers 16.
San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos: San Diego proved themselves last week with perhaps the most unexpected outstanding performance. While I said that the Chargers were a team capable of making a run in the playoffs, it was hard to imagine their offense playing at the level they did against the vaunted Bengals defense, while their defense completely shut down the Cincinnati offense.
Coming off their fifth straight win, the Chargers travel back to the Mile High city for the second time this season to meet the Denver Broncos for a third matchup. The Broncos took the first meeting between the two in Denver, 28-20, and San Diego evened the score on their home field in the second matchup, 27-20.
Peyton Manning played well (as he always does) in both previous matchups, and he will again this weekend without a doubt. Philip Rivers numbers weren't impressive in either game, but his leading of the offense in the team's win against Denver doesn't show on the stat sheet. It is noteworthy, too, that San Diego's running game came to play in both games, totaling 131 and 177 yards on the ground in the two games, respectively. It is unclear if the Chargers rushing attack will be as successful Sunday night, though, as Ryan Mathews is battling an ankle problem and his health is in question.
There is a very real possibility that the Chargers win this weekend's game. This defense is playing lights out (cue outdated Shawne Merriman reference), and Rivers and the San Diego offense have the formula for how to compete with and beat Denver. It's hard to predict the Broncos scoring less than 30 points in any game, but the Chargers offense knows to dominate the time of possession and keep Manning off the field.
But Manning has been hearing all of his critics this week questioning his eight one-and-done appearances in the playoffs and his 9-11 postseason record. He has something to prove, and I will never bet against a Peyton Manning with a chip on his shoulder; especially one that has a Demaryius Thomas, a Wes Welker, an Eric Decker and a Julius Thomas at his disposal. Broncos 27, Chargers 24.Back to the NFL Newsfeed