This week’s divisional round playoff games will have a difficult time matching the epic Colts comeback over the Chiefs, although hopefully it will avoid the comedic sort of self-implosion seen when Andy Dalton did his best impersonation of every Spinal Tap drummer ever. Last week, I went 3 of 4 straight up (posted to Facebook), with the only misstep the Bengals mistaking the bed for a litter box.
The 4:30 Saturday game features the Saints going back to Seattle to face the Seahawks. This reprises an ugly December 2 mismatch that saw the Seahawks bloody the Saints 34 to 7. The Saints were able to overcome the stigma of playing away in the elements in their win over Philadelphia, but Seattle has perhaps the best home field advantage in the league, to say nothing of their pulverizing defense and Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch fueling the ground attack. It’s damning with faint praise to say the outcome won’t be as ugly this time, but I still see the Seahawks coming out on top, 27-17.
At 8:00, the Colts square off against the Patriots in New England. Has to be Patriots, right? Brady? Belichick? And do the Colts have anything left after their comeback for the ages? Then again, the Patriots offense is without their best TEs, and the team has seen a ton of injuries on defense. They keep finding ways to win, though, and much as it pains me to say it, Belichick has done a hell of a coaching job keeping the Patriots machine going. Expect tough sledding again early for Luck, but Donald Brown has been running well and Luck to Hilton is a hot combo that the Patriots won’t completely shut down. A late rally (again!) brings the Colts close. How close? Very close. Colts 23, Patriots 20.
The Niners return to the scene of a week 10 loss (10-9) in Carolina for the 1:00 Sunday game, but the Niners were without a lot of players, including Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. This time, it’s the Panthers at a disadvantage, with Steve Smith hobbled. Expect plenty of crunchy defense and a few offensive breakouts that determine the final. I was underwhelmed by the healthy Niners offense against a meh Packers D, and the early start time on the road may keep the Niners out of synch. Panthers have gone 11-1 over the latter part of the season, too. Panthers in a close one, 17-16.
The 4:30 tilt matches the Chargers against the Broncos for the third time this season. On December 12, the Chargers snuck out of Denver with a win, and they’ve had a hot hand lately, but the Bolts were a weak six seed in the AFC field, despite the Bungles handing them a win. Philip Rivers has been playing well, which means if I were betting ATS I’d take the Chargers at +9.5, but I think Manning takes care of business here, setting up Manning vs. the Colts in the AFCC. But Rivers will make it interesting at the end. In fact, if the weather was forecast to be bad, I’d probably take the Chargers straight up. Broncos 31, Chargers 27.