Reverse Barometer: Divisional Playoffs
The Bengals are the most recent victim of the Barometer. What the heck was I thinking, taking them to win the AFC? Marvin Lewis wasn’t too thrilled with Andy Dalton (nor me). But hey, I did get the Colts and 49ers correct. The Eagles? Not so much. Oh well, let’s see what teams I can give the kiss of death to this week.
Saints at Seahawks (Saturday, 3:35 pm CST)
New Orleans won their first ever road playoff game last week at Philadelphia. Seattle has won five-straight home playoff games.
The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Seattle, who is practically unbeatable at home, especially in big games. These two teams met in week 13 in Seattle and the Seahawks earned a decisive 34-7 victory.
Can the Saints bounce back? Well, when you consider that the 27-point loss was the second-worst in the Sean Payton era, while their points, yards and first-down totals were all the fewest in over five years, well, there’s no place to go but up.
Oh, more good news for the Saints – Seattle’s Percy Harvin is expected to play after playing in just one game this year due to injury. He says he’s at full speed. Rob Ryan is clicking his heels over that one.
This is a quarterbacks league and there are two good ones in this game. One of them is going to throw two picks and put his team in a bad spot. Barometer is saying it won’t be Russell Wilson. Seahawks 34, Saints 20
Colts at Patriots (Saturday, 7:15 pm CST)
Indianapolis hopes there’s more to come for them after overcoming a 28-point deficit last Saturday vs. the Chiefs. The Colts ended up pulling out a 45-44 win.
Close games are this team’s specialty, going 14-2 in games decided by seven or fewer points over the last two seasons. The real question is, can Indy keep this one close? Their worst loss in that span was a 59-24 defeat at New England last year.
Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton caught 13 balls last week vs. KC for two touchdowns. He had six catches in last year’s regular season game at New England for two scores as well. Hilton will be key once again for Indy.
Injuries have hit New England hard, especially among their linebackers. And Rob Gronkowski leaves a big void in the middle for the Pats on offense.
The home team in this match-up has won all three playoff games they’ve played. That streak ends Saturday. When your team has a horse shoe on its helmet and its quarterback’s name is Luck, well… Colts 34, Patriots 31
49ers at Panthers (Sunday, 12:05 pm CST)
The defending NFC champs have a tough road to get back to the Super Bowl – win three consecutive playoff games on the road. Number two comes Sunday.
The Niners are on a seven-game winning streak though. The last time these two teams met on Nov. 10, the Panthers’ defense made life miserable for Colin Kaepernick in a 10-9 loss in San Francisco. Carolina held the 49ers to a season-low 151 yards.
The weather will certainly be better for San Francisco than last Sunday at Green Bay, but will Carolina’s D be? The Panthers play a disciplined game designed to contain Kaepernick and it worked masterfully in November.
But it may not be the Panthers’ defense nor Kaepernick that is the key in this one. It may be Niners wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who did not play in the first meeting.
Don’t forget that this is Carolina quarterback Cam Newton’s first-ever playoff game. The Panthers haven’t been in the playoffs since 2008 either.
Experience matters and the Niners have it. San Francisco makes their third consecutive NFC Championship Game and Jim Harbaugh will make another few arrogant and needless comments about something dumb post-game. Probably this column if I’m wrong. 49ers 27, Panthers 14
Chargers at Broncos (Sunday, 3:40 pm CST)
They rallied to make the playoffs and handed Cincinnati their first home loss of the season last week. They’ve defeated the Broncos in Mile High once this season, and held them to fewer than 30 points in both meetings (Denver averaged 37.9 points-per-game this season).
But Denver also has Peyton Manning and he usually shows up in games like this. Then again, he is also 0-3 in his last three playoff games. San Diego’s plan will most certainly be to run the ball and keep Manning off the field.
Another key is the return of Wes Welker, who has been out since December 8 with a concussion.
Despite San Diego’s best effort, it’s not wise to bet against either Manning nor the Broncos at Mile High. Broncos 37, Chargers 20.
The Reverse Barometer is notorious for not only making calls wrong, but incredibly having them go 100% the other way. If you dare to wager on games, pick the opposite of everything you see above and you might do well.