By Jason Keidel
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Keeping with last week’s retribution narrative, three of the four games this weekend are also a rematch from the regular season.
My hands may be white from all the chalk I pick, you know there will be one supreme surprise this week. But where? Since we went 3-1 last week – losing with the wretched Bengals, like everyone else – let’s try our hand at the most heavenly weekend of a most horrible winter.
Seahawks vs Saints
The Saints were 0-5 on the road in the playoffs. Now they’re 1-5. The Seahawks are 15-1 at home with Russell Wilson under center, including a Monday night homicide of the Saints a month ago. The time before then, Marshawn Lynch morphed into the Hulk, hurling Saints defenders all over the field on his way to the most impressive playoff touchdown run in history.
Everything points to the Seahawks. (Particularly if Percy Harvin plays.) Seattle is more rested, talented, and violent. The Saints are half their normal potency outside the Superdome, and forecasts say Seattle will be wet. But giving Sean Peyton and Drew Brees – perhaps the two smartest men in the sport – another shot at this is perilous. They will make this much closer than the last time. Just not close enough.
Patriots vs Colts
There are so many ribbons on Tom Brady’s lapels he can barely pull on his shoulder pads. But, believe it or not, it’s been nearly a decade since the sacred football duet of Brady & Belichick has won a Lombardi Trophy.
They still get to the playoffs every year, but winning it all has proven thoroughly thorny. After winning three Super Bowls before Brady hit puberty, they’ve gone 8-7 since, including two grueling losses to the New York “Football” Giants in the Big One.
Andrew Luck is on the quick climb to the top of the totem pole, where Brady currently resides. Last week Luck had his gridiron apotheosis, hurdling a 38-10 deficit to beat the Chiefs. Should Luck beat Brady, this game could be seen as the moment when the symbolic baton was passed. Not yet.
Panthers vs 49ers
If the NFL is really sour on concussions, they should cancel this game. There was a Tyson-type knockout in the first game, when the Panthers’ fullback Mike Tolbert blasted Eric Reid into sleepy time. Medics may raise their arms more than the refs this time around.
The Panthers beat the 49ers in their first contest. While it was in San Francisco, it was without Michael Crabtree, Colin Kaepernick’s football binky. San Francisco has been in this position many times, while Carolina might just be happy to be here after a 1-3 start had Ron Rivera dreaming of pink slips.
Everyone is on the Niner bandwagon, branding them the best team in the league. Not sure about that. But they’re good enough to beat Cam Newton in his first playoff game.
Broncos vs Chargers
The retrograde headline says it’s hard to play the same team three times, which gives San Diego a puncher’s chance. That’s not the reason. San Diego led the NFL in time of possession this year, which is the Peyton panacea.
Indeed, during their first two meetings, Denver held the ball just 22 minutes per game. Denver won at San Diego, and San Diego won at Denver, holding Manning’s offense under 400 yards and 30 points for the only time this year. The Chargers have not lost since they were 5-7. Ken Wisenhunt has the new Philip Rivers playing like the old Philip Rivers, which is trouble for the Broncos, who have a high school defense, particularly sans Von Miller.
Curious yet compelling stat. The last four teams to open their seasons against the Philadelphia Eagles have won the Super Bowl. Look it up. Guess where the Chargers played in Week 1? Correct. Since Philly can’t win anything on its own, the city of brotherly love has turned to blessing the visitors. In a game that’s almost impossible to pick, let’s go with that.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden.
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