NFL Playoff picks: Divisional round

(AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Saints at Seahawks

The Saints played in Seattle 6 weeks ago, and the Seahawks stomped all over them.

That is complete domination, and it was one of the more emphatic beatdowns of the season, at least in any games between two eventual playoff teams.

Beyond that one game, the Seahwks are just... better. A lot better.

• Seahawks Run O vs Saints Run D: Seahawks

• Seahawks Pass O vs Saints Pass D: Saints

• Saints Run O vs Seahawks Run D: Seahawks

• Saints Pass O vs Seahawks Pass D: Seahawks

• Special Teams: Seahawks

Colts at Patriots

The Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl since they beat cheated against the Eagles in Jacksonville after the 2004 season. Still, they're in the playoffs every year, and have won 8 playoff games in the last 8 years.

The Colts made an amazing comeback last week to beat the Chiefs after Andy Reid and Co blew a 38-10 lead. That was a huge step forward in Andrew Luck's career, and the Colts deserve all the praise they are getting for that amazing win. However, to only look at the positives in that game would ignore that their defense allowed 513 yards and 44 points to an average Chiefs offense that was missing its best player.

That was the 4th time the Colts allowed at least 38 points since Week 10. The Colts defense is not good. Expect Tom Brady to have his way, even without the Gronk.

49ers at Panthers

In their first three games, the Niners allowed 28, 29, and 27 points. Since then, they have yet to allow more than 24 points in any game, and an average of just 14.9 per game. The Panthers, meanwhile, gave up just 15.1 points per game on the season. In their matchup Week 10, the Panthers won 10-9, and they harrassed Colin Kaepernick the entire day. Kaepernick finished 11 of 22, for 91 yards, 0 TD and a pick. He was also sacked 6 times for 45 yards. If you include the sack yardage, the Niners had 46 yards of passing offense.

However, Kaepernick is playing better now than he was earlier in the season. In the last 4 games, Kaepernick has 3 games in which his passer rating is over 100, and he has run for 215 yards (53.8 per game). The return of Michael Crabtree has made a big difference. Last week, Crabtree caught 8 passes for 125 yards, and looks like he's back into form. That is huge for a passing attack that really only had Vernon Davis as its only other scary weapon.

In this case, the Panthers may have been better off without the bye. While the Panthers will come in fresh, the Niners come in battle tested. If Cam Newton and Co had more playoff experience, I'd be inclined to favor "fresh," but in this case I'll take the experienced battle tested team.

Chargers at Broncos

This is the absolute last team Peyton Manning wants to face, and not because of anything the Chargers do on defense. The Chargers do an absolutely tremendous job of shortening the game against more talented opponents by hanging onto the football on offense for very long drives. That has to kill a guy like Manning, who does not like standing on the sidelines for extended periods of time. 

In their 2nd matchup of the season, the Chargers held onto the ball on their first two drives for 6:36, followed by another 6:36. Later in the game, they had a drive that lasted 8:20... that resulted in a punt. Those three drives alone took 21:30, which was longer than the Broncos possessed the ball for the entire game.

In every one of their 10 wins this season, the Chargers have had at least one drive of 6+ minutes. They'll need more of that against the Broncos on Sunday. The Broncos are favored by 9, and should win, but if the Chargers can string together a couple long first half drives, I like their chances.