Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots. Andrew Luck and the Colts are on a little bit of a high thanks to the Kansas City choke job in the wild card round. As much as I think Luck is big time, the run ends in Foxboro. There is no way in hell I would pick Luck (and most quarterbacks) against Tom Brady. No other analysis is necessary. Patriots 30, Colts 17.
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos. A few people (including ESPN First Take’s Skip Bayless) are picking the Chargers in an upset. I’m not one of those people. I think Peyton Manning and the Broncos are still pissed that they went out in last year’s divisional round against last year’s champion Ravens. If it wasn’t for as Bayless called “Hail Flacco”, Denver would have hosted the Patriots in the AFC championship game. I expect Manning to unleash his wrath on Philip Rivers and the Chargers. Broncos 27, Chargers 17.
San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers. This is going to be the game of the weekend. Two hard-hitting teams. Two stout, harder hitting defenses. Two mobile, strong QBs in Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton. What’s not to love? I will say this: this game will come down on the health of Panthers’ wide receiver Steve Smith. He says he is less than 100%. Smith is needed to keep the Niners’ defense honest. Meanwhile, the Niners have a healthy Michael Crabtree and a concussion-free Vernon Davis. Plus San Francisco was my preseason Super Bowl champions, so I gotta roll with the Niners. 49ers 20, Panthers 16.
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks. I like the way Saints’ coach Sean Payton thinks. He had the Saints practice field painted with Seahawks logo. However, I do remember the Seahawks curb-stomping the Saints on a Monday night game during the season. And given that play-maker Percy Harvin will be back for Seattle – and Seattle’s 12th man will be in full effect – I think the Seahawks will prevail over New Orleans again at home. Who dat? Seattle, dat’s who. Seahawks 28, Saints 20.