This is the best weekend of the NFL season. Why you ask? Because the teams who have put themselves in the position with great regular seasons get to host Wild Card teams coming off wins. Teams like Seattle, Carolina, New England and Denver have had two weeks to prepare and get healthy for their opponents. But based on recent history, that might not be the best recipe to get to the Super Bowl as only once in the last 20 years has the #1 faced off vs. the #2 seeds in the Championship games.
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (-8, 46.5) - The Saints are coming off their first playoff road win in their history as they beat the Eagles at the buzzer on FG 26-24. Drew Brees was pedestrian by his standards, which makes the win even more impressive. It was the running game and solid defensive scheme by that maniac Rob Ryan that has them heading to the Great Northwest for this Divisional match up.
Seattle has been waiting in earnest for this as they have home field advantage throughout the tournament and just might be the best team on paper. QB Russell Wilson has played great “system” ball and with a defense like the “Hawks have it’s not that difficult. Add in RB Marshawn Lynch bringing his “BeastMode” to the playoffs and I can see why the dudes in the desert have made the home team a TD and a 2 point conversion favorites.
These teams met back December 2nd in Seattle and the ‘Hawks skull-dragged the Saints to the tune of 34-7 on MNF. And with a 100% chance of rain (shocker), this one could be the same result. But my vibe is the game will be close in the 4th quarter, but either a Special Teams or defensive play by the ‘Hawks propel them to the NFC Championship game. Seattle 24-20.
Nuggets: Saints are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 meetings in Seattle. Favorite is 5-2 ATS in their last 7 meetings.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (-7.5, 51.5) - Fanboy alert: I preface that because I’m a full-blown fanboy of Colts QB Andrew Luck. And why not as he stole the playoff wild card headlines last weekend by leading five second-half touchdown drives and throwing for 4 TD’s and a career-best 443 yards in an amazing comeback 45-44 win over the KC Chiefs. The onus will be on Luck and WR Ty Hilton (224 yards, 2 TDs) combination once again in Foxboro due the the absence of a consistent running game. Trent Richardson is a bust, but Donald Brown has given Luck at least a back that doesn’t fumble and can catch the rock out of the backfield. But it’s not the offense I’m worried about, its the pathetic defense vs. Tom Brady that makes me think this one will be a tall task for the Colts.
Multiple injuries to TE Rob Gronkowski and the departure of Wes Welker has left the Patriots scrambling to cobble together an effective passing attack and it’s reflected in Brady’s numbers this season-25 TDs and 87.3 passer rating are his lowest since the 2006 season. But it’s the playoffs and Brady is 11-3 at home in the postseason (lost to the Ravens last year) and needs 3 TD’s passes to surpass Brett Favre (44) for the second-highest total in playoff history. But how will the banged up Patriots defense stop the free-flowing Colts offense is the bigger question.
I see this one maybe not as high scoring as 45-44, but both teams should push 30 points (depending on weather which has rain in the forecast). And if that is the case, I’ m leaning towards taking the Colts SU to win, but definitely taking the over 51. It’s just hard for me to imagine Brady losing back to back playoff games at home, so I’m hedging a little here. Patriots 33-30.
Nuggets: Colts are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games overall. Over is 4-0 in the last 4 meetings. Underdog in 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 meetings.