New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks:
In a rematch of their week 13 matchup, the Saints will be heading into Seattle’s CenturyLink Field in an attempt to reach the NFC Championship. However, the Saints must hope that this game will be different than the previous game. The Seahawks thrashed the Saints at home by 27 points, their worst loss of the season. The Seahawks blitzed the Saints and took a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and a 27-7 lead by halftime. The Seahawks were able to totally stop the entire Saints offense and allowed them only 188 yards, their lowest output of the season. The Seahawks’ secondary played huge, although they did not record and interceptions Brees threw for only 147 yards and one touchdown because the secondary was great and double teamed his main weapon, Jimmy Graham. Along with the incredible pass defense, their rush defense allowed only 44 yards on 2.6 yards per carry. While the Saints offense was exposed, the Seattle pass offense could not be stopped and Russell Wilson accounted for 310 yards, 3 touchdowns, 47 rushing yards, and a quarterback rating of 94.7, which is out of 100 points. Although the Saints were able win on the road at Philly for the first time in franchise history, Drew Brees played below average and will need to improve his play in order to win in Seattle. Although Philly is a raucous environment compared to most stadiums, Lincoln Financial Field is like a tea restaurant compared to CenturyLink Field, which gives the Seahawks the best home field advantage in the league. Since entering the league last season, Wilson has lost only once at home, this season to the Arizona Cardinals. Although Brees will fortunate that the weather will be above freezing, unlike last weekend, the weather calls for heavy rain and 20 mph wind. Unfortunately the Saints are predominantly a passing offense, which will be affected by the weather and the great Seahawks passing defense. However, the Saints showed last week that they could create a resemblance of running game. Last week, Mark Ingram played the best game of his career and recorded 97 yards and one touchdown. Along with Ingram, the Saints combined for 185 yards on the ground, which enabled them to move the ball although Brees passed only 250 yards and 2 interceptions. The ground game will need to have an even better game this week if they are going to have a chance, since Brees will likely have trouble again this weekend. While the Saints offense will probably have trouble, the Seahawks’ players should have adapted to the cold and rainy weather and have a better chance of playing through the elements. The Seahawks may be given a huge addition if Percy Harvin can return and make an impact for the Seahawks. The Seahawks will hope to establish their ground game with Marshawn Lynch against the 25th ranked rushing defense in the league. Although it has been three years since the Seahawks huge upset over the Saints and Marshawn Lynch’s crazy 67 yard run nicknamed “beast mode”, the Saints defense is playing better and held the best running attack to only 80 rushing yards in Philly. The Seahawks should attempt to score early and run the ball so they keep Brees on the bench and eliminate the Saints’ ability to run the ball. Also, Wilson needs to limit his turnovers so the Saints cannot capitalize on extra possessions. The Seahawks should be the favorite in this game because they have better defense and are well built to play in this type of weather. Although the game will be closure, the Saints will need to pull off a huge upset to win the game.
Prediction: Seahawks win 27-20
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots:
Will it be time for the new guard to overtake the old guard? After one of the most exciting games of all time, the Colts must regroup and head on the road to take on Tom Brady and the second seed New England Patriots. Andrew Luck played a great second half and led the Colts to the second largest comeback in NFL playoff history. Although the Colts did not play the Patriots this season, the Colts headed to New England last year and were destroyed by the men for Foxborough. However, this is a different Colts’ team and Andrew Luck is a different quarterback with more experience and relationships with his offense. The Colts are on a great run and have won 4 straight games and 5 games in their last six efforts. The Colts have been able to succeed because they are playing better defense, running the ball, and Andrew Luck is playing like one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Although the Colts did not run the ball very frequently in their contest against the Chiefs, since they were down by 28, they did achieve 5.3 yards per game. The Colts have an added dimension in the running game because Andrew Luck has wheels and ran for 45 yards against the Chiefs. Although Luck’s rushes are nice, his arm and decision making make him one of the best in the quarterbacks left in the playoffs. Last week, Luck threw for 3 interceptions, but 443 yards and 4 touchdowns. Although Luck is very young, one of his best qualities is his ability to lead his team and be cool during pressure filled situations. While the Colts have a good quarterback, the Patriots may have the best quarterback of all time in Tom Brady. Although Brady has posted better statistics in his career, he needed to use all of his skill to lead the Patriots to the second best record in the AFC and an undefeated record at home because his receivers do not have much talent and are unable to provide separation or catch the ball in conference. Like the Colts, the Patriots are hot and have won five of their last six weeks. However, the week break may cause the Patriots to lose rhythm, which could affect them early in the game. The Pats have been able to run the ball with more efficiency and frequency this season, which will be necessary against the Colts. While the Colts are above average against the pass because they have quality pass rushers and corners, their rush defense ranked 26th during the season. LaGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley, and Shane Vereen have provided the Pats with a three headed attack that should be able to gain yardage against the Colts. However, the Pats have not been great in the playoffs over the last few seasons. After winning three titles early in his career, Tom has not won a championship over the past decade. The problems with the Pats have been their inability to shut teams down on defense and run the ball to set up the pass on offense. The Colts should be able to pass the ball and run the ball because Luck can throw on any defense and the Pats have one of the worst defense in the league. In this game, the Colts should be able to pull off the upset because they are playing better defense and Luck has the talent to lead the Colts past the Pats. Besides the 31 points they allowed in the first half, the Colts allowed 37 points over the past few games. The Colts should be the favorite if the game is close because Luck has a knack to win close games against any quarterback and team, Seattle, Denver, and Kansas City. The game should be high scoring, since the weather is not going to horrible and the offenses are a notch above the opposing defenses. Last weeks’ game should give Luck even more confidence that he can win any game against any team.
Prediction: Colts win 37-34
stats and pics from ESPN.com