Scott Garceau: Here’s Your Final 4
This is arguably the best week of the NFL season, 8 teams fighting for 4 spots in the conference championship games. Nothing wrong with next week but this weekend fans have doubleheaders on both Saturday and Sunday. A year ago in Denver the Ravens Joe Flacco threw a bomb to Jacoby Jones that shocked the Bronco’s and paved the road to the Ravens Super Bowl title. Who’ll make the plays to remember this weekend? Lets take a look at the match-ups.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (12-5) AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (13-3) Saturday 4:35
The Seahawks are rested and at home and that makes the Saints heavy underdogs in this one.
I won’t dismiss a Sean Payton team that has Drew Brees at quarterback, Jimmy Graham at TE and Rob Ryan running the defense but I will remind you that these same Saints got spanked on a Monday night in Seattle this season 34-7. The Saints gained some confidence winning on the road in the outdoor air of Philadelphia last week. It won’t be 34-7 this time but in the end Seattle advances to the NFC Championship game.
New Orleans 17
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (12-5) AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4) Saturday 8:15
Down 28 points in the 2nd half Andrew Luck lead one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history last week as the Colts edged the Chiefs 45-44. I doubt if Luck can repeat his 443 yard 4 touchdown performance in New England. Coach Hoody’s Patriots don’t have that great feel about them this season but Brady is still their quarterback and they get to play this one at home. Despite a couple of recent home playoff losses to the Ravens the Patriots are 14-4 at home in the postseason, second best all-time. My hunch Brady will make enough plays against a suspect Colts defense to get New England to their 3rd straight AFC Championship game.
New England 28
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (13-4) AT CAROLINA PANTHERS (12-4) Sunday 1:05
I like this one. The defending NFC Champion 9ers with a bunch of momentum against the Panthers who won 12 of 14 after an 0-2 start. It looked like Ron Rivera was on his way out of Charlotte until the Panthers caught fire and made him a Coach of the Year candidate. The teams both have young duel threat QB’s in Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton and they both can play tough old-school defense. In November the Panthers won in San Francisco 10-9 and held the 9ers to 151 total net yards. The Panthers have won 4 in a row against the 49ers and 8 of the last 10. If Carolina can get it going early the home crowd can help fuel an upset. Why not?
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (10-7) AT DENVER BRONCOS (13-3) Sunday 4:40
Peyton is coming off one of the greatest regular seasons in NFL history but we all know it’s the post season that gives him headaches. Jeremy, is it 8 or 9 one and done’s for Pey-Pey in the playoffs? Manning’s Broncos are a heavy favorite in this one just like they were last year when the Ravens crashed their party. Last week the Chargers went into Cincinnati as underdogs and came out of “The Jungle” with a 27-10 win. In December the Chargers went into Denver and came out with a 27-20 win over the Broncos. The Chargers are playing with house money and Philip Rivers is a slingin’ river-boat gambler. Ryan Matthews who ran for 127 yards and TD in Denver is banged up and that won’t help San Diego, still Peyton beware of the Bolts!
San Diego 20