Last week SD Sports Insider went 2-2 in the Wildcard Round. That puts our 2013 Season record to 47-20 (started making picks week 14).
I will give very detailed analysis for this week moving forward in the playoffs.
Saints vs Seahawks
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints travel to Seattle to face Russell Wilson and the Seahawks to start this weekend’s Divisional Round of the Playoffs. The Saints played up in Seattle back in Week 13. They had perhaps their worst outing offensively and defensively of the year, losing convincingly, 34-7.
Seattle’s home field advantage is probably the best in the entire NFL. Will this be a remake of Week 13? I do not think so. Sean Payton is a good coach and I truly feel they will make adjustments and come into this game firing. When it is all said and done, Sean Payton and Drew Brees have more playoff experience than the young Russell Wilson. Russell is an outstanding quarterback, but I think he will have to fight mightily for this win against a good bunch of Saints’ veterans.
The Cardinals proved late in the season that the Seahawks are not invincible at home. It is also tough to defeat a team twice in a season when so much is changing every week.
The Saints are going to have to do what I mentioned in last weeks article. Get the running game going. They did this well against the Eagles which really helped keep Chip Kelly’s high octane offense off the field. Mark Ingram had a good game which could be considered a breakout game for him really. He took advantage of Pierre Thomas and rushed for 97 yards on a 5.4 yards per rush with 1 touchdown. Sustaining long drives with the balance of Mark Ingram will be key to this game.
I picked against them last week, so I feel I have to pick the Saints this week. It will be close, but I feel the Saints playoff experience will put them over the hump to win this game.
Saints 31 Seahawks 27
Colts vs Patriots
Andrew Luck is coming off his first playoff win nearly making history with a 28-point comeback. By the third quarter the Colts were down 38-10 to the Kansas City Chiefs. Although Luck threw 3 interceptions, he still did enough to rally his troops and overcome adversity. I was extremely impressed with the way the game played out and the Luck that was on Indianapolis’ side.
With that said, the Kansas City Chiefs are still a young and inexperienced team with the exception of Alex Smith. It was an inexcusable meltdown that is probably still hurting in Kansas City.
Checking back into reality, the Colts must go to Boston to face the Patriots. The Patriots are not the team they have been in recent past, but still have Tom Brady. He might be all that they need.
Oh yea, they also have Bill Belichick who effectively shuts down opponents best player. That player might be TY Hilton for the Indianapolis Colts. TY proved last week against the Chiefs that he can make big play after big play to put his team in contention. Belichick had a strong weapon in Aqib Talib who should shut down Hilton with some help from up top.
I don’t see either of these teams advancing past the next round and onto the Super Bowl. They are both solid teams but lack real depth all around. Tom Brady has way too much going for him and simply knows how to win games. I think it would be hard to pick against Brady in Foxborough.
Colts 20 Patriots 34
San Francisco vs Carolina Panthers
Last year the San Francisco 49ers made it to the Superbowl and were a 4th down pass away from winning it all.
The Carolina Panthers are coming off consistent losing seasons going 7-9 last year. Cam Newton has no Playoff experience.
These are two extremely similar teams. They both have a Top 5 Defense whom dominate in the trenches. They also both have top tier offensive lines who produce a solid running game. They also both have a new-generation versatile and athletic quarterback.
Cam Newton is a tremendous player and has had a great season. He is making his playoff debut against a team who just made a Superbowl run. I do not have confidence in his decision making skills in the clutch. Colin Kaepernick has proved his performance in the clutch. Colin is equally as dynamic as a QB as Cam is, and he has the playoff experience.
Colin also has more weapons. Vernon Davis is a top tier NFL Tightend. Anquan Boldin is a very physical and reliable receiver. Michael Crabtree is finally back healthy and producing. He also has a great back in Frank Gore who can handle a bulk of the running workload. Cam really does not have anyone other than a hobbled Steve Smith. They have a barrage of running backs, but none that have really stuck out and made their stamp in the NFL. You could argue Mike Tolbert has that stamp, but really only in a limited role.
As good as the Carolina defense is, they still have some weakness on the backside. If Colin can take advantage of Carolina’s defensive backs and get Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis going, I think the 49ers take this easily. The Panthers offense is not as strong as San Francisco’s. Back in Week 9 the Panthers beat San Francisco 10-9. I think that offensive production is more characteristic of Carolina, and less characteristic of San Francisco. What I mean is, the 49ers are more capable of scoring points than the Panthers.
49ers 24 Panther 13
San Diego Chargers vs Denver Broncos
This past week I left my Los Angeles home to travel down to San Diego for a couple days. I forgot how it is like to live in an NFL city with a team in the playoffs. It seemed as if the bandwagon was completely full. Chargers gear everywhere all over the town. It was actually great to see and hear everyone fired up about the Chargers.
The fans are not playing the games, but this energy definitely has to be felt throughout the organization. San Diego is still in that ‘playing with house money’ mentality after squeaking into the Playoffs. They also have to have some confidence after being the only team this season to defeat Denver in Denver.
The two times San Diego played Denver this year, they limited Peyton Manning and the Broncos to their lowest two offensive outings of the season (in terms of yards). The Broncos have also only scored less than 30 points 3 times this season — 2 of those times were against the Chargers.
For as bad as the Chargers defense has been this year, they played well against the Broncos and have played well here down the final stretch of the season. John Pagano has done an excellent job in disguising defensive schemes bringing multiple blitz packages.
They key factor to this game might be Wes Welker. He did not play last time these two teams faced each other, and we all know what he is capable of. The Chargers defense backs with determine this game. If they can limit the big plays than it will put San Diego’s offense in good position.
The Chargers offense also needs to play sound football. Philip Rivers must convert in the redzone and not settle for field goals. Ken Whisenhunt should stick to his game plan of running the ball and keeping it out of Manning’s hands. Ryan Mathews has not practiced all week and this could prove to be crucial. If the Chargers can get Mathews 20+ carries, than San Diego has a good chance of winning this game. Mathews should play on Sunday, but they will need a balancing mix of Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown. Last week those two picked up the slack when Mathews left the game with an injury.
Maybe I have that San Diego bias, but I truly believe San Diego an win this game.
San Diego 31 Broncos 24