ALBANY, NY – Sure, last week didn’t go so well for my predictions. But I did predict one of the games correctly; the one that mattered most – San Francisco 49ers over the Green Bay Packers. With my predicted Super Bowl Champion still alive, anything can happen! Looking ahead to this weekend, there are four more exciting games of playoff football to enjoy. By Sunday night, four teams will be one game away from a chance to play for the Lombardi Trophy.
New Orleans Saints (NFC No. 6 Seed) at Seattle Seahawks (NFC No. 1 Seed) 4:30 p.m. EST: Last week the Saints needed to pull of a minor miracle to beat the Philadelphia Eagles on the road, and they did. The Eagles started off slow offensively, playing nicely into New Orleans’ hands, allowing for Drew Brees and Co. to stay in the game. After pulling it off last week, the Saints will have an even tougher test taking on the Seahawks on the road this weekend. Playing in a tough environment at CenturyLink Field, with all of the crowd noise will make it very difficult to win Saturday. However, I see the Saints’s magic running out thanks to the powerful running attack of Marshawn Lynch and the ferocious pass rush lead by defensive end Cliff Avril. Seattle wins in a close one. Seahawks: 24-20
Indianapolis Colts (AFC No. 4 Seed) at New England Patriots (AFC No. 2 Seed) 8:15 p.m. EST: If you thought the Saints’ win was impressive, the Colts victory last weekend blew New Orleans’ out of the water! Down 28 points in the 3rd quarter to Kansas City, who thought Indianapolis would come back? Somehow they did, and now have the opportunity to get one step closer to playing at MetLife Stadium in February. Considering everything that has happened to the Patriots this season, Tom Brady and Co. have done a pretty impressive job. If Brady wants another ring, he’s going to have to pull some tricks out of his sleeve. This Colts defense is tricky good (no pun intended,) especially with the career year outside linebacker Robert Mathis is having. However, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels should be able to cancel out Mathis with an effective running game and the short passing game. Running back LeGarrette Blount’s success will be the key to New England’s victory. Patriots: 34-24
San Francisco 49ers (NFC No. 5 Seed) at Carolina Panthers (NFC No. 2 Seed) 1:05 p.m. EST: The 49ers are in luck this weekend. Unlike last week, when the game time temperature was in the single digits and the wind chill was in the negative teens, the 49ers are in Charlotte, North Carolina where Sunday’s forecast predicts a balmy 57 degrees Fahrenheit with nothing but sun. As far as the game itself goes, this NFC match-up is the Game of the Weekend. Be prepared to watch two of the NFL’s top defenses go to work with a shot to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Unlike San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is playing in his first playoff game. Newton, who is a confident player, may find himself starting off a little slow. Cam coming back from his inconsistent play at the beginning of the game will be the determining factor on whether or not the Panthers need to make a tee time for next weekend at Pebble Beach. But by the time Newton finds his footing, the 49ers may be too far ahead for Carolina to catch them. With a great front seven on defense and a well rounded offensive attack, the Panthers have to play a near perfect came to stop these California guys. San Francisco wins by a touchdown. 49ers: 31-24
San Diego Chargers (AFC No. 6 Seed) at Denver Broncos (AFC No. 1 Seed) 4:40 p.m. EST: The San Diego Chargers live to play another day. At 9-7, S.D. needed the teams to lose in order to make it into the playoffs. Check. San Diego needed to go into Cincinnati and steal a game from one of the best defenses in the league. Check. Now, the Chargers are marching into Denver to steal win from the top offense in the league, led by the best quarterback in the NFL in Peyton Manning. Can they do it? Denver has some holes on the offensive line, which will bode will for San Diego’s defensive scheme. BUT… Denver’s offense might be too strong. With wide receiver Wes Welker back from injury, Denver has too many weapons for San Diego to account for. This one might be a blowout. Broncos: 42-21