New Orleans returns to Seattle while Indianapolis goes to New England for what seems like the millionth time. I expect both games to be highly competitive and exciting with both going down to the fourth quarter. Let’s dig in.
New Orleans (+8) at Seattle – Back in week thirteen of the NFL season, New Orleans traveled to the upper Northwest to play Seattle on a Monday night. They knew it would be a litmus test of just where they were as a team. What they found out was that there was work to do as they got hammered 34-7. The Saints went on to split their final four games and wound up the wild-card rather than the NFC South champion.
The Saints return to the scene of the crime on Saturday and believe they are more prepared than they were in early December. I have to give Sean Payton and his team credit for finally winning a playoff game on the road and in colder temperatures. This however, will be a much greater challenge than the Eagles.
Seattle showed a little bit of vulnerability at home by losing to Arizona in week 16. Was that just a blip on the radar screen or did the Cardinals reveal a blueprint for winning in Seattle? Despite Carson Palmer throwing four interceptions that day, the Cardinals controlled the clock and the ball with a running game that outgained Seattle by roughly 50 yards.
They also sacked Russell Wilson four times and held him to just 11 of 27 passing. If the Saints are to have any chance, they must copy the blueprint Arizona laid out. Whether starting running back Pierre Thomas is back or they go with Mark Ingram, pounding the ball will be crucial for time management but also will keep the pressure off of Drew Brees.
The over/under is listed currently at 46 and I think the under is a good play with a 100% chance of rain on Saturday. The Saints are 1-6 against the spread in their last seven road games and are 2-5 ATS in their last seven versus the Seahawks. Seattle is 19-4 straight up in their last 23 contests. I believe the Saints put up a better fight this time around and will take them getting the points. I think Seattle wins the game though.
Indianapolis (+7.5) at New England – The teams are familiar and the scene in Foxboro is familiar as well but the guy playing quarterback for Indianapolis is no longer Peyton Manning. The Colts go on the road behind Andrew Luck following their 28-point comeback last week at home against Kansas City. The faces in New England have changed too but not where it matters. Quarterback Tom Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick are looking to erase some painful memories of recent playoff failures Saturday night.
The formula for Indy is simple in my opinion. They must not turn the ball over and they must get to Tom Brady the way they came after Alex Smith in the second half last week. Sprinkling in some solid running from Donald Brown would help the Colts’ cause as well. For the Patriots, the team must follow the lead of Tom Brady who is a seasoned playoff veteran.
I think you’ll see heavy doses of the running game from the Patriots in an effort to slow down Robert Mathis and that Colts’ front seven. I expect Brady to rely heavily on Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola before spreading the ball around more. Stevan Ridley and LaGarrette Blount each rushed for over 770 yards this season and I expect that type of balance to be on display.
With the over/under at 52, I’m really torn. I think Indy can win a shootout, but I expect New England to make it a lower scoring game by taking away T.Y. Hilton and staying with a short passing game and rushing attack. The Pats are 1-4 ATS in their last five games at home against the Colts while Indy is 8-15-2 ATS in their last 25 games against New England.
I suspect another memorable night playoff game in Foxboro and I like the Colts with the points but will take New England to win.