At the start of December, the Seahawks hosted the Saints on Monday Night Football with the top record in the NFC on the line. The game was no contest as the Seahawks dominated the Saints 34-7 in the rain. The Saints have since broken through on the road, and the Seahawks have since been beaten at home, but the hill the Saints have to climb is still considerable. Rain is once again in the forecast and with a bye week some of those aches that may have slowed the Seahawks down the stretch should be gone. Percy Harvin who has not seen much action has been practicing and could give the Seahawks offense a new weapon if he can get in the lineup on Saturday. The wind could also be a factor, and that will also be bad for the Saints who need to open the offense up if they are to have a chance for the upset. Marshawn Lynch could be deciding factor as the Saints have trouble with big running backs, and with the Russell Wilson also able to run the ball the Saints defense could have the same problems they had in December appear again. In fact the last two times the Saints ventured into the Pacific Northwest, the ground in Seattle shook as the Seahawks dominated the Saints. With that type of crowd noise behind the 12th man d the anticipation of a Seattle Championship Game and the Seahawks overall skill and this will leave the Saints once again as road kill.
Much like Peyton Manning a decade ago, Andrew Luck has a chance to reach elite status with a playoff win in Foxboro. Manning never did get that win in Foxboro, losing in 2003 and 2004, but the learning experience helped him when he finally did take the Colts to the Super Bowl with a comeback in the 2006 AFC Championship Game over the Patriots. Despite last week’s historic comeback win over the Chiefs, this game might be too tall of an order for the second year quarterback. The Colts have had trouble starting games all season, and if they fall behind the Patriots it could be 30 minutes of hero worship of Tom Brady on the CBS broadcast as the game will get ugly fast. The Patriots always take advantage of young teams and know how to find and attack their weakness, with Bill Belichick revealing in being the biggest bully coach since Cobra Kai. One thing that could help the Colts is if Deion Branch can give his secondary some pointers against his former Patriots teammates. Another way the Colts can have a chance is if Donald Brown can have a big game carrying the ball and keep the ball out of Brady’s hands. Of course the most important factor is Robert Mathis making Brady uncomfortable and whinny looking for the flag. If the Colts can do all three they may pull off the upset. However, that would be an almost perfect storm, and with the weather looking iffy that will be am unlikely event.
In traditional football manifests offense was said to sell tickets, while defense ultimately won championships. With some of the more high powered offenses still alive in the 2013 playoffs, that mantra seems a bit out of date, but two teams that still live by that rule will meet in Carolina in the Divisional Playoffs. When the 49ers hosted the Panthers in November, nobody quite took Carolina seriously. However, after the Panthers won the game 10-9 the Panthers finally were regarded as serious contenders. The 49ers at the time were at a weakened state, having come off a trip to London and still missing some key players. Now, they are at their best and could be the team that is hot at the right time. The Panthers are a very young team and making their first playoff appearance in five years. Most of the Panthers team is complete postseason neophytes, including Quarterback Cam Newton. In the past Newton has never faced a game this big and against a solid defense like 49ers who have their own scrambling quarterback he could have a very long afternoon. The 49ers went to the Super Bowl last year, were one game away in 2011 and have won huge games on the road in Atlanta and Green Bay in the last two playoff season. This just does stack up well for a playoff newcomer and the reason why the NFC Championship will come down to a battle of Western Division rivals.
Of all the teams the Broncos could have face in the Divisional Round; the Chargers are perhaps the one that would give them the biggest fight. The Chargers faced the Broncos twice this year, and held their record breaking offense under 30 points in each game, including a Week 15 win in Denver. Chargers Coach Mike McCoy served as the Broncos offensive coordinator last season, and Quarterback Coach Frank Reich had worked with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, meaning they know some of Manning’s weakness and tendencies. If the Chargers can get in front and control the time of possession the pressure may soon begin to rise on the Broncos sideline, as the forecast is calling for mild weather in Mile High city. One thing that should help the Broncos is the return of Wes Welker who missed the Broncos last three games, including the loss to the Chargers. The Chargers defense right now is playing at a high level and they are spreading the ball well and playing with a good offensive balance. Like their first two games against the Chargers the game will not be easy for the Broncos. However, the Broncos offense is to good to be denied and with the game on the line Peyton Manning will connect with Wes Welker on a big scoring drive to put the game away in the final minutes to set up another Manning-Brady showdown with the Super Bowl on the line.