It's Football Friday. The Washington Redskins have a new head coach (good luck Jay Gruden) as does Penn State (James Franklin moving on from Vanderbilt). Maybe we'll have a few thoughts on these hirings early next week, but today it's all about previewing and predicting each NFL divisional matchup. Have to do better than the 1-3 record from last week. Let's get right to it and see who's winning in "the stack" for today, Friday, January 10:
New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks 4:35 PM ET FOX (Saturday)
The New Orleans Saints return to the murder scene this Saturday. More specifically, their murder scene. They were embarrassed in Seattle Monday night, December 2, suffering a 34-7 loss to the Seahawks. The Saints were awfully impressive last week beating the Philadelphia Eagles with their ground game. Who knew? Their defense is night and day compared to last year thanks to Rob Ryan. But how will it hold together this time around in Seattle? It will be better, they'll hang closer for a while, but in the end, it just won't happen. Seattle's defense is way too good. The Legion of Boom will force Drew Brees to hang on to the ball a little longer than he would like to and that will mean bad things for the Saints offense. Seattle's offense hasn't played great recently, but news that Percy Harvin is likely to play this week will certainly be a big boost for them. This just doesn't seem like the year that Seattle will bow out in the first round. They're too good.
Prediction: Seahawks 34 Saints 20
Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots 8:10 PM ET CBS (Saturday)
Colts and Patriots meeting in the playoffs again?! Shocker! This time though, there's a different face in the Indianapolis Colts uniform. Not Peyton Manning, but rather Andrew Luck. After what he did last week in leading that stunning come-from-behind victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, we should never doubt what he or the Colts can do in coming back. However, the Patriots have had a little bit of time to prepare and the forecast calls for some heavy rain during the game. The Patriots have a much better backfield with LaGarrette Blount, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley than the Colts do in their backfield. On a rainy night, controlling the clock and getting yards on the ground will be crucial. The Patriots have lost a lot due to injuries this year. The Colts can sympathize with that as well. Deion Branch signing with the Colts this week looks like a move to try and gain insight as to what Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is up to. Here's what he's up to. Beating the Colts in the playoffs, something he has done a lot in his career. Won't be surprised if the Colts can win, but...
Prediction: Patriots 27 Colts 23
San Francisco 49ers @ Carolina Panthers 1:05 PM ET FOX (Sunday)
I sense a rivalry theme to the divisional playoffs this week. The Panthers beat the 49ers back in week 10 in San Francisco 10-9. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick says the 49ers owe the Panthers. That loss helped get the 49ers focuse back. They're healthier now too. They're running the football better. Their defense is just as good as it has been. Kaepernick himself is playing much better. But just because the 49ers are playing better doesn't mean the Panthers will let the 49ers walk all over them. This Panthers team is legit. Their defense, particularly the front seven is phenomenal. Have you seen Luke Kuechly? Whale of a linebacker. Cam Newton is playing the best he ever has in his career and the city of Charlotte is going absolutely nuts for this team. It will be quite the difficult atmosphere for the 49ers to play in, but after going to Green Bay last week and playing in that cold weather, the 49ers can do it. Would love to see the Panthers win and I think they very well can. Something is just tugging at me to pick the 49ers though.
Prediction: 49ers 20 Panthers 19
San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos 4:40 PM ET CBS (Sunday)
The third matchup of the year between the Chargers and Broncos will take place in the very same spot that the Chargers started to believe that they could make the playoffs. Sports Authority Field in Denver saw one regular season loss this year. That was to the Chargers. San Diego did it with ball control (tremendous rushing attack), strong defense and keeping it out of Peyton Manning's hands. They did it last week too against Cincinnati. Broncos fans should be very nervous for this game. Couple that with the fact that Manning has more one-and-dones in the playoffs than any other active quarterback, and the facts speak for themselves. He has struggled in the postseason. Sunday may be no different. The Broncos must play outstanding defense to win this game. Head coach John Fox knows that. All of statistics point to the Chargers winning this game and they very well could. I want to pick them, but something is telling me that what the Broncos have been hearing all week about San Diego's success against them will inspire them and help them come out ready to pop San Diego in the mouth. Then again, I thought some of the exact same things as last week and went 1-3 in picks.
Prediction: Broncos 30 Chargers 24
Coming up Monday: NFL Divisional reaction