The 2013 regular season passed through like a vapor. Records were broken, favorites fell, surprise teams rose and certainly NFL officials were under scrutiny like never before. Peyton Manning had a season for the ages but even he will admit records of today have to be viewed with a critical eye.
There is no doubt offensive numbers will continue to be gaudy in the playoffs but when the pressure tightens and the elements become a factor. Defense will become more crucial.
Before our weekly picks and I anticipate several early round upsets but in the end the chalk will hold true as the Denver Broncos survive to face the Seattle Seahawks in New York for the NFL Championship. Certainly the weather could be in play in New York which would benefit the Seahawks. This would be a great match-up with Richard Sherman and the nasty Seattle secondary facing the multitude of weapons of the Broncos. Football fans and all of the casual viewers would be enthralled by this game. In the end, Seattle’s defense is great but Manning and the Broncos offense is at another level, and Peyton gets his second Super Bowl ring.
Last Week: 12-4 Final Regular Season: 165-90-1
Kansas City at Indianapolis: Saturday 4:35 p.m. NBC- Indianapolis defeated the Chiefs in Kansas City two weeks ago in impressive fashion. However, Kansas City should have a healthier squad this time around. Their pass rush will look much different than the first matchup with Justin Houston back in the lineup as well as a healthy Tamba Hali. Their challenge will be to win third downs against second-year quarterback Andrew Luck. The Colts will have a significant advantage playing in the comfy confines of Lucas Oil Stadium. Although many point to the struggles of the Colts’ offense following the injury to Reggie Wayne, they finished strong winning four of their last five games. This will be a slug fest between two very good teams. Andy Reid and his staff devise a plan which frazzles Luck, while Alex Smith continues to win football games. The Chiefs pull off the road upset with the electric Jamaal Charles having a monster game. KC 27 IND 24
San Diego at Cincinnati: Sunday 1:05 p.m. CBS- The Chargers backed their way into the playoffs with an overtime victory over a Chiefs team that rested several key starters. Phillip Rivers had a very good season throwing for over 4,400 yards and 32 touchdowns. San Diego finished in the top five in offense but 23rd on defense. They lost at home to Cincinnati in Week Thirteen in a game where the offense managed only 10 points. The Bengals had another solid season but need to get over the playoff hunp. Their defense was once again very good ranking #3 in total yardage. Andy Dalton gets a lot of criticism, understandably so, but his 33 TD passes cannot be overlooked. The Cincinnati offense has plenty of talented weapons but it all starts with A.J. Green. For the Chargers to have a sho,t Rivers must have a great game and the defense will have to force Dalton into turnovers. In the end, the Bengals are a dominant home team and will play very well in front of their home faithful. CIN 24 SD 17
New Orleans at Philadelphia: Saturday 8:10 p.m. NBC- The Saints will hear the usual, they cannot win on the road, they cannot win in the cold, so on so forth but they match-up very well with the Eagles. Drew Brees has shown his frustration with such beliefs but there is no doubt data to back up the claim. Their high flying offense, providing no weather issues, should find plenty of openings against the aggressive Philadelphia defense. Sean Payton will no doubt have his troops prepared. On defense, the uber-aggressive Rob Ryan will have to prepare his unit for the Chip Kelly read-zone attack led by NFL rushing leader LeSean McCoy. The Eagles eked out a victory in Dallas to claim the NFC East title culminating a surprise season. Kelly silenced critics after a rough stretch quickly regrouping while turning Nick Foles into the league’s highest rated passer. The Philly offense puts playmakers in space and in one-on-one matchups which is a difficult task for any defense. This should be a thrilling contest that will be decided in the final minutes. Brees upstages fellow Westlake High School alum Foles in a Texas style shootout. NO 37 PHI 33
San Francisco at Green Bay: Sunday 4:40 p.m. Fox- The Niners will begin their march for a return Super Bowl trip against Green Bay in Lambeau Field. San Francisco has had the Packers number of late, 45-31 in last season’s divisional round and a 34-28 victory to open the season but none of that will matter on the frozen tundra. San Francisco is suited for such weather with their physical running game and punishing defense but Kapernick may struggle in the cold. He has proven to be an immense thorn in Dom Capers’ side. Green Bay rejoiced at the return of Aaron Rodgers and he did not disappoint. He shook off some rust to lead the Packers to a division clinching victory in Chicago. The bad news is Clay Matthews is likely to be out which will severely hamper their ability to apply pressure on Kaepernick. San Francisco is the more talented team and built to win on the road; however, the Green Bay home field advantage is huge not to mention Aaron Rodgers having one week to knock off the rust. Both will be a major challenge for the Niners at full strength let alone with their depleted secondary; however, in a thrilling contest, San Francisco moves on. SF 34 GB 27
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