It’s the second week of the PFT postseason picks contest, and the wild-card round resulted in a push.
I correctly picked the Saints (MDS had the Eagles), and I foolishly had faith in the Packers (MDS took the 49ers). We both correctly picked the Colts, and we both incorrectly selected the Bengals.
This week, we disagree on only one game. Which means that one of us will take a one-game lead into the conference championship round.
For our takes on each of the four games, read on.
Saints at Seahawks
MDS’s take: I’d love to find a reason to be the contrarian and say the Saints have a good chance of winning this one. But I just can’t. The Seahawks were better than the Saints all season. When these two teams met in Seattle six weeks ago, it was ugly. I don’t think the Seahawks are going to have the game wrapped up by the end of the first quarter, like they did when they destroyed the Saints in the regular season, but I do think the Seahawks are going to win handily. Seattle’s pass rush is going to make life hard for Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson will make plays with both his arm and his feet. It won’t be as lopsided as 34-7, but it won’t be close, either.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 31, Saints 14.
Florio’s take: The Saints are doing everything they can to simulate the reality of playing in Seattle. But there’s no way to fully simulate the most intimidating atmosphere in all of sports. To have a chance, the Saints will need to continue to rely on a running game that helped lift the team to its first playoff road win in franchise history. And they’ll have to hope that the Seahawks sputter like they did in Week 16 against the Cardinals, which unfortunately may have been more about keeping the Seahawks from getting complacent and less about exposing the team’s flaws. Throw in the return of Percy Harvin, and a valiant effort by the Saints feels destined to fall short.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 28, Saints 24.
Colts at Patriots
MDS’s take: Indianapolis is a team on the rise, a franchise that I see making the playoffs consistently for as long as Andrew Luck is the quarterback, which is probably a dozen or so more years. Kind of like the Patriots have been for as long as Tom Brady has been the quarterback. If the Colts could win a playoff game in New England, it would feel like an AFC changing of the guard, but I don’t think the Colts are quite ready for that. Indianapolis doesn’t have a good enough defense to keep New England’s offense in check, and Bill Belichick’s defensive schemes will force Andrew Luck into some big mistakes.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Colts 14.
Florio’s take: It’s hard to call the Patriots overachievers with Bill Belichick as the head coach and Tom Brady as the quarterback. But even with two of the best ever at their respective jobs, the Patriots have major flaws. And the Colts bring a dangerous nothing-to-lose mentality to Gillette Stadium, along with a head coach who has four years of experience with the true New England nemesis in the AFC -- the Ravens. Look for Chuck Pagano to contain the New England offense just enough to give Andrew Luck and company a chance to outscore the home team. If Luck can beat Tom Brady in their first ever postseason meeting, all those Colts fans who still wear Peyton Manning jerseys may have to buy some royal blue tape and turn the 8 into a 2.
Florio’s pick: Colts 23, Patriots 20.
49ers at Panthers
MDS’s take: When these two teams met in San Francisco in November, the defenses dominated: Carolina’s D held San Francisco’s O to five different three-and-outs, while also recovering a Kendall Hunter fumble and intercepting Colin Kaepernick to end the game. San Francisco’s D held Carolina’s O to three different three-and-outs and intercepted Cam Newton once. Kaepernick was held to a season-low 91 passing yards, while Newton wasn’t much better, with just 169 passing yards. I expect this to be another low-scoring defensive struggle. Both defenses are good, but the Panthers’ defense is better, and I like Carolina to win a close one.
MDS’s pick: Panthers 16, 49ers 9.
Florio’s take: The last time the 49ers played the Panthers, receiver Michael Crabtree was still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, tight end Vernon Davis left early with a concussion, and linebacker Aldon Smith participated in only 12 snaps in his first game back from rehab. Also, quarterback Colin Kaepernick recently has rediscovered the groove that made Ron Jaworski proclaim Kaepernick could be the best ever. The Panthers don’t care. Tough and gritty and able to overcome adversity, it’s Cam Newton’s time to step onto the big stage and shine. He’ll find a way, early or late or at some point in between, to make enough plays to complement a defense that will give Kaepernick a much harder time than the Green Bay defense did in the wild-card round.
Florio’s pick: Panthers 17, 49ers 16.
Chargers at Broncos
MDS’s take: There are a lot of things to like about the Chargers. They won in Denver a month ago. They’re healthier than the Broncos right now. Philip Rivers is passing as well as anyone not named Peyton Manning. This game should be close and competitive, much more than you’d expect for a wild card team that barely made the playoffs facing the No. 1 seed in the conference. In the end, however, I just don’t think San Diego’s defense is going to be good enough -- and I don’t think Manning is going to hand the game to the Chargers’ defense, the way Andy Dalton did on Sunday. The Broncos may trail for much of the game, but they’ll pull it out in the fourth quarter.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 27, Chargers 24.
Florio’s take: One month to the day after the Chargers tiptoed into the lions den and took its zebra leg, Philip Rivers and company are trying to barge through the front door. Good luck with that. Keenly aware of the impact of this game on his legacy and motivated to show that the regular-season outcome in Denver was a fluke, Peyton Manning will become Peyton F. Manning for at least one day in January.
Florio’s pick: Broncos 41, Chargers 24.