“winner or just a fashion statement ?”
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
The Saints proved a lot of pundits wrong by winning outside in frigid conditions at the Philadelphia Eagles – and quite comfortably regardless of the score line. This week is a different proposition at Seattle whose home form was impeccable until the final game of the regular season when they lost to conference rivals the Arizona Cardinals. These two met in early December with the Saints copping a thrashing by 27 points. The Saints should be a different proposition this time around and Quarterback Drew Brees can be a match winner on his day. The Seahawks have a formidable defence and have built their game around smashmouth running football and the mercurial talent in second year quarterback Russell Wilson. This will not be the blowout of the regular season match.
Prediction – the Seahawks to cover the -7.5 point start – just
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
Last week’s stunning performance by Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck in the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs has further highlighted how good a player he is. Turning a 28 point deficit around set a NFL playoff record, and they will go into the Patriots home full of confidence. The Patriots are not as strong as previous seasons however they have adapted to a game plan that fits the players they have. History shows the Patriots are always strong in their first playoff game – it’s the second one they struggle with. Patriots Coach Bill Belichick is possibly one of the best in terms of win percentages and may have already worked out how to stop Luck. The emotion of the Colts comeback win last week may not be enough for them to prevail here however it all depends on how clinical Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady will be, and whether he has the weapons to help him. The Colts do have a weapon in receiver T Y Hilton however having two stellar weeks in a row is a tough ask.
Prediction – Patriots in a close one with the Colts to go close to the points start of +7.5
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
The Panthers won the NFC South division for the first time since 2008 and will be meeting a 49ers team who overcame the elements at Green Bay in the wild card game and grind out a win. The Panthers have a hardness about them that is different to previous seasons and may finally be reaching the potential that they have on paper. They come up against a 49ers team that are driven after coming close in last year’s Superbowl and may have a team that’s seems to be built for cold weather climates considering they are based on the warmer West Coast. 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh is a no nonsense kick ass type who will have no issues motivating his team to overcome a close regular season loss to the Panthers in November. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is hitting his strides and is athletic enough to manage a rush game as well as a pass game. This could be the toughest game of the weekend in terms of physicality and maybe the closet
Prediction – 49ers to grind out a win in a slugfest
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning was voted sportsman of the year in the USA after an outstanding season however the pressure is already building around his form during playoffs, and Superbowls he should have won – he only has one to his name after two appearances in the championship game. The Broncos were the form team offensively however their defence is sometimes wanting. The Chargers roll into Denver with confidence at an all time high after easily accounting for the Bengals in the Wild Card round. On a winning steak they beat the Broncos in Denver in December and will be looking to do it again. Quarterback Philip Rivers has a lucky charm Bolo tie however in the longest shot of the weekend’s games this may come undone. The Broncos were in the same position last season and lost to eventual champions Baltimore in their home playoff matchup. Lessons should have been learnt.
Prediction – Broncos is a closer score then the -10.5 start they are given
Disclosure: The writer of this preview is a Kansas City Chiefs fan and is still overcoming how they lost to the Colts last week. Issues of clock management and 4th quarter coaching decisions are aplenty however from being the worst team last season to getting to the playoffs this season should be recognised. The Colts finished as the worst team in the 2011/12 season and made the playoffs last season. They were knocked out in the wild card game to the eventual winners the Baltimore Ravens. This year they have gone a step further . The Chiefs will do the same next season.
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