The 2014 NFL playoffs are back for the divisional round, which means I'm here to try and avoid embarrassing myself as I make some predictions for the coming weekend. I was correct on three of my four predictions in the Wild Card round, which is probably much better than I'll do this weekend. I picked the Colts, Chargers, 49ers and Eagles. I really did not see the Saints winning on the road, even in Philadelphia. So much for that notion.
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Pick: Seahawks cover
I'm sure plenty of people would love to see the Saints knock off the Seahawks at the CLink. While I think a 49ers-Seahawks contest would be an epic matchup, I also would enjoy one last game at Candlestick Park. All that being said, I'm just not holding my breath for New Orleans to spring the upset. Yes, anything is possible. I just don't see it happening this weekend.
I realize the Saints are not as bad, nor the Seahawks quite as good as we see in that Monday night beatdown on December 2. However, there is still a lot of space New Orleans has to make up between these two. Add in projected rain in Seattle, and I don't see that Saints offense doing nearly enough. Unlike in years past, I do think the Saints defense could keep them in this one. The Seahawks defense is dominant, but that offense is inconsistent. They have the edge at home, but this game could at least be moderately interesting if the Saints defense comes to play.
Pick: Colts win outright
Bill Belichick deserves a ton of credit for the job he has done this season in New England. Given the sheer volume of injuries this Patriots team has suffered, it has been impressive what he has done. The team's personnel work has been an issue in recent years, but I'm somewhat amazed he turned this into a 12-4 team with a bye.
I think their luck is about to run out. The Colts are coming off a rather miraculous comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs. They very well could come in completely flat and lose this one, but I think they're talented enough, and mature enough, even as a young team, to emerge victorious. I went with the Colts as my AFC Super Bowl squad. Winning at New England and Denver will not be easy, but I just think Andrew Luck can guide this team to the promised land. Or at least, to the location of the promised land before they lose to the 49ers!
Pick: Broncos (Chargers cover)
I'm going with Denver, but I honestly have no clue what to expect from San Diego this weekend. They have now won five straight and six of seven. That run includes a playoff road win against the Bengals, and a huge road win against these very Broncos. I don't think that previous win over Denver dictates another win, but would anybody really be surprised if they pulled off the upset?
Something about this Chargers team is just feisty. Philip Rivers is doing great things this year, and Ryan Mathews has quietly put together a monster year. I am going with the home team in this one, but I am not at all confident in the pick. And I would love to see the Chargers pull this one out.
San Francisco 49ers @ Carolina Panthers
Pick: 49ers cover (barely)
As tempting as it was to pick the Panthers to win this one........
But seriously, as much as it rankles Carolina Panthers fans, the 49ers are the better team. That doesn't guarantee they'll win. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Both teams are very good football teams, and as many have said in recent days, they are very similar to each other. They have dominant defenses, strong rushing attacks, and incredibly dynamic quarterbacks.
During Wednesday's Google+ Hangout with Cat Scratch Reader's James Dator, we discussed how the Panthers were almost like a "younger" version of the 49ers. The Panthers are working on building the playoff experience, of which the 49ers have an extensive amount at this point. Could that be the difference? Or will Cam Newton and company rise to the occasion? I think we'll see another tight one, but I think the 49ers have the weapons to come out on top. But keep your heart medication handy.
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