I was informed by my editor this week that unlike Wild Card Weekend which is an event, while the divisional round isn't.
I don't understand it either, but my point is, leave my capitalization alone.
With that out of the way, let's talk playoffs.
I broke down the various weaknesses of each remaining team at Bleacher Report, but I know some of you guys won't go there so I won't take it personally but will make it easier for you by talking NFL football here.
So let's see what we have on tap for this weekend.
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
This is going to be a tough one for the Saints to win—and that's even before factoring in potential thunderstorms.
The fact is that Drew Brees has looked shaky at times this season and he faces an opportunistic secondary in front of a loud and hostile crowd.
You can run on Seattle—St. Louis and, to a lesser extent, Tampa Bay, showed that—but Pierre Thomas is hurt and Mark Ingram has been inconsistent. Still it's probably the best tactic for New Orleans to undertake.
They're going to have their hands full defensively with a combination of Marshawn Lynch running the ball and Russell Wilson throwing it to Golden Tate. I expect Rob Ryan to have a few new answers for the problems the Seahawks game him in Week 13 (an embarrassing effort by an otherwise solid unit) but ultimately this is a team that is going to have a hard time stopping the Seahawks offense.
Let's not forget about Percy Harvin either. While I don't expect him to have a lot of impact in the passing game during his first game back in a long time (and only his second this year), he will field punts and kickoffs and is one of the most dangerous players in the NFL doing that. Field position will be huge and he could provide Seattle with some great starting points.
Ultimately, this is a game the Seahawks should win and I have them doing so to kick off the weekend straight up.
They are favored by 8, which is a tough line in a divisional game, and I wouldn't assume Seattle covers even if they win.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
Everyone seems to be on the Andrew Luck bandwagon, but let's pump the breaks on this a little.
We've seen Pats head coach Bill Belichick slap around young quarterbacks before and I expect to see a lot of pressure heading Luck's way to disrupt his rhythm. That said, the Patriots' defense is a mess of injuries that make the Packers say "Ouch." As has been the case all year, the Pats are prime to be beaten.
Ultimately though, the savvy duo of The Hoodie and Tom Brady will roll over Luck—mostly because as banged up as the Pats are, the Colts defense isn't all that exciting.While Alex Smith disappeared in the second half last week (along with the vaunted Chiefs defense), Brady doesn't do that and even with a an injury-decimated offense, he can move the chains.
Straight up, the Pats win this one, but as with the Seattle/Saints game, I'd take the points and the Colts as it should be closer than the 7 line says it will.
Still, in a last possession game, Brady is going to get the last possession and put this game away.
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
I've been pulling for the Panthers for months, but I think the story ends here and Cindy goes home without Prince Charming.
The difference here is simple: the offense the Panthers defense throttled in Week 10 didn't have Michael Crabtree or a healthy Vernon Davis (he left the game with a concussion).
That's not to say Carolina has no shot—I think unlike the Packers last week, the Panthers have the athletes to keep up with a scrambli9ng Colin Kaepernick as well as get past the offensive line to deliver pressure.
However it's too much to ask them to keep a lid on Crabtree, Davis, Anquan Boldin and Frank Gore. The Niners will move the ball and they will put points on the board.
On the other side of the equation, the Panthers have a banged up Steve Smith, Ted Ginn and Brandon LaFell. Greg Olsen is then the biggest weapon for Cam Newton to throw to and it seems an awful lot to ask for him (Newton) to win the game without more support offensively.
In the end, the Niners should win this game and easily cover the one point spread.
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
To me, this is the upset in waiting for the weekend.
Over in the article at B/R, I wrote a lot about how over the course of their two games this year, the Chargers and Broncos were fairly evenly matched. The Chargers did an excellent job controlling the clock and the Denver defense is shaky enough to let them do it.
The key here might be the health of Ryan Mathews. Reports are that he is wearing a brace and planning on playing but it's clear he won't be a 100% and that's an issue. The drop-off from Mathews to Ronnie Brown is significant and Mathews is the only running back to have run for over 100 yards on the Broncos this season.
San Diego will want to control the clock and keep Manning off the field. Again, the Denver defense is vulnerable to that—they are statistically the worst defense left in the playoffs and while their offense is ranked No. 1 overall, the Chargers are No. 5—close enough to be a problem.
Something about this game screams for upset. I think Manning has a solid day, but the defense doesn't. While I say the Chargers win outright, even if you think Denver is going to win, the nine points is a great bet.
The Broncos outscored the Chargers in their two games a total of one point. That's all.
Even if the Broncos win, this game is going to be a lot closer than we think. Take the points.
Again though, I believe the Chargers surprise everyone with a win in Denver.
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