New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks absolutely destroyed the Saints 34-7 in Seattle on Dec 2nd. I do not expect that to happen again. I would think NO HC Sean Payton and his staff learned a lot from that game. I would also expect Saints QB Drew Brees to play a lot better.
However, I just don’t think the Saints will be able to make enough adjustments to overcome the talent advantage Seattle has on both sides of the ball. Seattle has the best Pass D in league, by far, and they defend the run very well too. The Seahawks offense is not one league’s best, but it is good, with the very capable Russell Wilson leading the attack at QB.
Seattle wins 28-17.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
As I mentioned in my previous post I have been extremely impressed by how well the Patriots have played given the adversity they have had to deal with this season as a result of losing so many key players to injury (and one to terminal stupidity – A. Hernandez). I think those losses will probably prevent them from winning another Superbowl this season. If NE was completely healthy I think they would have emerged as the favorite to win the Superbowl. The Patriots are still a very good team and at home they should be able to defeat the prolific Andrew Luck and the young Colts, even without Gronk, Wilfork and a few others, but I don’t think they can beat Denver without those players.
New England wins 35-24.
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
This should be a fairly close game between two excellent teams that are both strong on both sides of the ball. They played in week 10 of the regular season in SF and the Panthers won 10-9. However, SF played that game without star WR Michael Crabtree and that really hurt the 49er passing attack. Crabtree is back and that makes a difference. SF’s offense was really hampered for extended periods of time during the regular season by loss of key receivers, such as Crabtree and TE Vernon Davis. But those guys are back and that makes SF QB Colin Kaepernick a lot more dangerous. SF also seems to have given Kaepernick the green light to run more in the playoffs (almost 100 yds rushing against GB) and use his 4.4 speed. Carolina’s D is outstanding, but I doubt they will be able to shut down SF as well as they did the last time they played. That means the Panther offense will probably have to score a lot more than 10 points to win this time around. Panther QB Cam Newton is a big X factor in this game. Newton is one of the most dangerous dual threat QB’s in the league, with a strong arm and the ability to rip off a 40 or 50 yard run if the defense gives him an opening. He is very much like his San Francisco counterpart in that respect. Veteran Panther WR Steve Smith is coming back from an injury to play in this game and he will be needed. Of course, it remains to be seen how effective he will be, but Carolina would be at real disadvantage without him. Again, I expect a hard fought battle, but I think SF HC Jim Harbaugh has a few more weapons at his disposal right now and that will give the 49ers the edge.
San Francisco wins 23-21
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos.
Denver is the big favorite here and they should be given their potent offense and impressive regular season record of 13-3.Of course, one of those losses was to the Chargers and it was the Broncos only home field loss, so Chargers fans, myself included are hoping that San Diego can duplicate that feat. It will be a real tall order for the Bolts to do that even though they appear to playing their best football of the year. The Broncos best defensive player, LB Von Miller, is out with an injury and the Chargers may be able to take advantage of that, although they may not be able to take full advantage of Miller’s absence because their star RB, Ryan Matthews, is still recovering from an ankle injury he suffered in week’s playoff game with Cincy. One of the keys to victory for the Chargers previous win over the Broncos was controlling the ball and time of possession. Matthews strong running in that game enabled the Chargers to eat up lots of clock and keep Peyton Manning off the field. Can the Chargers do that again? I think it will be harder because Matthews may not be a 100% and Denver has had time to make adjustments. On offense, Denver will no doubt benefit from the return of WR Wes Welker, who was out in the last game against the Chargers. Welker a great possession receiver and with help Manning enormously when he needs a 1st down or a TD in the red zone. So, do the Chargers have a chance? Hell yes, they do. Chargers QB Philip Rivers is playing at a very level and the Bolts will put points on the board, but I think it will probably take at least 35 points to beat Denver and that will be extremely challenging. If the Chargers can catch a break here or there and take advantage of a few turnovers they may be able to pull off the upset, but it will probably take some lucky bounces of the ball going the Chargers way.
Denver wins 35-28