So here we are, after an excellent wildcard round, this generally is the best weekend of the NFL which all 4 games looking pretty tasty, so let's get right to it, all Sky Sports here:
New Orleans Saints (#6) at Seattle Seahawks (#1), Saturday, 9:35 p.m, FOX
Before we do anything else, this tie means it's 4 years since this happened: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVL9nsalO2E
Anyway, The Saints defied the odds by finally winning a post-season game away from home in the cold and unforgiving cold of Philadelphia by doing something they don't rely on enough, running the ball. They are however, going to need a lot more than that when they travel to Seattle for the second time this year. While their new found running attack was hugely effective and useful going into this game, we all know how scary the Seahawks D is, especially at home, having already held the Saints to just 7 (tied lowest in Payton/Brees era!). While the Saints impressed and will surely keep the game much closer than earlier than the season, it seems very difficult to see past a Seahawks win tonight.
Simply put, the 'hawks are a much more complete team than Philly, they have the best D in the league, they have a great balanced offence, and as will be mentioned thousands of times over the next couple weeks THEY ARE AT HOME WHERE IT IS LOUD. Interesting stats: four of the last six NFC #1 seeds have been "one and done", this game will feature two of the shortest playoff QB's ever and the Saints kept the lowest allowed yards in a play-off game ever. (SEA by 4-5)
Indianapolis Colts (#4) at New England Patriots (#2), Saturday, 1:15 a.m, CBS
Well, easily the best match of the weekend and maybe the season so far, the Colts got here by overcoming an unbelievable deficit. At half time, Chiefs fans were starting to look at Boston flight prices, their dominating 28 point lead seemed so assured. And then something mad happened. The Colts got a TD, no real danger, but then this happened: http://www.nfl.com/videos/indianapolis-colts/0ap2000000309101/Wild-Card-Can-t-Miss-Play-Luck-s-improv-able-TD and the lid blew off.
Mad props to the Colts, where many teams would have given up, they rallied to stay alive for another week. Now they face a much more formidable opponent. At the moment, the Colts seem to have destiny on their side, they have beaten the Broncos and the Hawks this year, and having overcome a huge hole last week, look in good stead to score against a banged-up Patriots D. But haven't we been here before? Patriots are supposed to be a mess, but they're a dangerous team as long as Brady is on board, and the way they shut out my Ravens in the penultimate week of the season, and their blow out of these same Colts this year, away from home proves it. We would all love to see a Colts win here, and certainly will be rooting for them, but my head just can't go with it, regardless how much seems to be going right for the Colts. What I think we can take from this though, is that with a tiny bit more building, Andrew Luck will get to a Superbowl in the next 3 years. (NE by 4-5)
San Francisco 49ers (#5) at Carolina Panthers (#2), Sunday, 6:05 p.m, CBS
Probably the biggest highlight of the weekend, these two played an incredibly intriguing defensive slug-match back in week 10. That game saw the Panthers contain the Niners in San Fran, but that was an out-of-form and injured Niners team. Frankly, the Niners are firing on all cylinders now, overcoming a difficult test in the freezing tundra of Wisconsin, and will be much tougher this time around. However, the Panthers have been excellent at home, and their D has been huge all year which will be crucial to this game. Last week for Colin Kaepernick return to the read-option and rushing that made him so thrilling and successful last year, so combined with the opposing Cam Newton, this could be the biggest day for QB rushing yards in a playoff game ever. The difference however, is that the rest of the Panthers' offence is struggling, with Steve Smith who has been solid but unremarkable this year as it is, rushing to return back from injury. As things stand, the Niners are the more complete team and on terrific form, so will go into this game as favourites, much will depend on if the Carolina D can contain them. This should be a very close, low scoring game, if the Panthers stand up with their crowd behind them, they should steal a win, but it's going to be extremely difficult with the Niners' current form on both sides of the ball (CAR by 3)
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos, Sunday, 9:40 p.m. CBS
And finally, in my opinion, the biggest chance for an upset. These Chargers have beaten the Broncos at Mile High this year and came extremely close to it at home, and seem to have the tools against Manning & co. Manning has never beaten the Chargers in the playoffs, a team who seem so similar to last years Ravens, who I'm sure you don't need reminding, upset the Broncos exactly 1 year ago today, and I'm going to stick my neck out and say it happens again today. The Chargers D has stepped up massively recently, especially in their wildcard win at Cincy last week, and are the only team to contain the Broncos to under 400 years total in each of their games this year. They have an excellent system in place, with the two headed beast of Woodhead & Mathews running excellently, leaving Rivers under less pressure, making him more effective when he is needed to go through the air. The Broncos are of course a terrifying team at their peak, we have seen them demolish teams this year, but they aren't impregnable, and the Chargers know it. They've eaten up the clock and kept Manning off the field in their previous ties, and this will be their game plan again. Oh and here's some Manning centric stats: Manning has been "one and done" eight times in his career, In games after receiving a first-round bye, Peyton Manning is 1-4, the worst record for a QB since 1978, the start of wild-card play, There has never been a Super Bowl-winning quarterback who led the league in passing yards that same season. (SD by 3, possibly in OT)
HERE WE GO