Last Week: 1 - 3
Season: 177 - 100 - 1
New Orleans (12 - 5) 23 @ Seattle (13 - 3) 28: The Saints broke their winless streak in road playoff games against the Packers last week. Seattle had its vulnerability at home exposed by Arizona, so this may not be the slam dunk for the Seahawks it may have been a couple of weeks ago. In week 13, New Orleans got creamed in Seattle, their only big loss of the season. This week, Saints head coach Sean Payton had a Seahawks logo painted on the New Orleans practice field. That's a little like Dorothy clicking her heels and saying there's no place like home, there's no...Well, you get the point. Because for the Saints, despite the last second victory against a depleted Green Bay team last week, there really isn't any place like home, and the same goes for Seattle. It's easy to get swayed by victories in the wild card round, because the best teams had byes, but Seattle had the week off because throughout the season they were the top team in the conference, especially at home. These are the same teams that played earlier in the season, and New Orleans is going on the road for the fourth time in five weeks. I'll take the home team to pound the Saints again.
Indianapolis (12 - 5) 31 @ New England (12 - 4) 27: Same teams, different Colts' QB. These two franchises have met twelve times in the last ten years, with the Pats holding a 7 - 5 edge, 2 - 1 in the playoffs. Indy QB Andrew Luck's only appearance against Brady & Co. was a 59 - 24 shellacking last season. The Colts are coming off a miraculous comeback win over the Chiefs, while the Patriots took last week to try to get healthy and have Brady continue to increase his comfort level with a patchwork of skill players. Indianapolis has some impressive wins, including at San Francisco and Kansas City. The Patriots, despite losses and injuries to receivers and running backs, somehow managed a 12 - 4 season and a first round bye, going undefeated at home. For some reason, I just don't feel good about New England tonight. The Colts, despite a terrible first half defensively against Kansas City, has some momentum and can play with anyone in the league. I'm taking Indy in an upset.
San Francisco (13 - 4) 17 @ Carolina (12 - 4) 20: The 'Niners appear to be back in Super Bowl form, but they are heading into the home stadium of the hottest team in the league. The Panthers have won eleven of twelve and twelve of fourteen after an 0 - 2 start. They've only allowed more than twenty points in three games all season. Earlier this year, Carolina squeaked by San Francisco on the road, 10 - 9. Both these teams play tough defense and have good, young quarterbacks to guide their offenses which rely on the run to control the clock. This game is virtually a toss-up for me. The big question will be how a young Carolina team plays in their first playoff game since winning the NFC South in 2008, a four season absence. The Panthers defense totally dominated 49ers' QB Colin Kaepernick in their first meeting, and this time the crowd will be on their side as well. I like what the Panthers have done and I expect them to be traveling to Seattle next week with a shot at the Super Bowl on the line.