NFL playoff Saturday open thread

Jazz: Welcome to the beginning of the end of football for this season. We have four games on tap as the final hopefuls are pared down to the eventual showdown. I agreed to kick things off this weekend because Ed is still busy signing autographs and basking in the glow of setting some sort of record for wildcard playoff predictions last week. But it’s a fresh new day and we both get a chance to hit the magic number of going 4 for 4. (Er… I should be specific here and say four wins on the picks.)


Ed: Hey, I did go 4-4 … four losses. I don’t recall getting skunked like that ever, but like I told my wife later, I made the right picks — if NFL games lasted 55 minuted instead of 60. Jazz won the first weekend, so he gets honors on starting the posts, which means I have to follow behind. And bring the donuts.


Jazz: The early game today has the New Orleans Saints traveling to visit the Seahawks in Seattle. (4:35 p.m. FOX) Seattle is an 8 point favorite to win today, and even given my love for picking upsets, it’s hard to argue with this one. If they were on the road, I’d give the Saints more of a chance, but when Seattle is in front of their home crowd which tends to register on local seismographs they are darned hard to beat. They also have the best passing defense of the remaining contenders, and if you limit Drew Brees’ air game, the Saints look a lot less formidable. I’ll go with the favorite on this one and take Seattle for the win in a low scoring match, 27-17.


Ed: The match-up of the 2nd-best passing offense against the best passing defense will be fun to watch, but the bigger key will be the rushing game. Seattle is 4th best in rushing, and 7th defending it. The Saints are 25th in rushing, and only 19th in defending it.  Seattle is 26th in passing offense, but they may not need to test the league’s 2nd-best passing defense much under those conditions. If Seattle’s secondary remains on top of its game, their offense can put together long drives that limit Bree’s ability to do much at all. I’d guess that this will be a low-scoring game as a result, with the Seahawks winning 24-9.


Jazz: The second match is the one that will get my blood boiling this evening, when the New England Patriots host the Indianapolis Colts. (8:15 p.m. CBS) The line has the Patriots up by 7, and traditionally this is where Bill Belichick would shine. But I have two reasons to doubt the line here. First of all, while the Patriots look good on paper, they are decimated with injuries and they just haven’t looked very good, even when they were winning. Second, the Patriots are the nemesis of the Jets, and I don’t want them to win. The Colts are the Cinderella story here with a huge chip on their shoulder and I’m going to let emotion get the best of my brain. I’ll take Indianapolis in a big upset, beating the Patriots like a red headed stepchild, 31-20.


Ed: A dome team is going to come to New England in January and whip the Patriots? A team which went undefeated in its eight home games in 2013? Rob Gronkowski is on IR, Aaron Dobson will have to sit, and a few players are questionable for the game, but the core of the 2013 team will still be on the field to face off against a team a decent-but-not-dominating road team. The weather won’t be too cold at game time at 53 degrees, but it will be wet and windy, and that’s three conditions that Andrew Luck doesn’t see much inside the dome in Indianapolis. Plus, he and the Colts will be up against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, who won five of their last six games despite their injuries, including a road game in which they whipped the Baltimore Ravens and an OT win at home against the Denver Broncos. The Colts won 5 of their last seven, but three of those wins came against Jacksonville, Houston, and Tennessee, with road losses at Arizona and Cincinnati. Patriots will win big tonight, 35-17.

I think Jazz is just giving me a gracious way to catch up, really. Or leading me into a trap. Based on last weekend, it could …. go either way. Anyway, enjoy. And by the way, the NFL had better hope this string of epic close games continues, because they’re facing some real competition on Super Bowl Sunday.