God, take a whiff. Nothing like the smell of playoff football to get you through another cold, frustrating winter. Three out of last weekend’s four Wild Card games were must-watch. Two of those victories came from road teams, with the Saints and 49ers kicking gut-punching field goals through piercing sub-zero temperatures. Phil Dawson is a bad, bad man.
Same as last week, the Divisional Round – featuring the last eight teams standing – has two games per day. So plan accordingly. Chores, work, whatever; it can wait. You may or may not be snowed in so rationing what food remains while you contemplate a Donner Party-like feast of whoever you’re trapped with. Let the NFL’s warming embrace usher you into the other side as you all lose your mind, one frigid household at a time.
New Orleans Saints Vs. Seattle Seahawks (4:35 EST, FOX)
1. That whole Saints-can’t-win-on-the-road thing definitely got a swift kick in the balls last week. Defeating the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field is a hell of a way to build confidence. What people fail to mention about New Orleans are the teams that bested them: New England, New York, Seattle, St. Louis and Carolina. New York and St. Louis are by no means easy outs, and besides that? Three division winners.
They’ve been tested quite a bit on the road this season, but they clearly aren’t allergic to natural turf. That being said…
2. Until further notice, the Saints’ history in Seattle isn’t exactly on their side. Right, Marshawn?
2a. Seriously, re-watch that video at least three times. There isn’t a better run OR CALL in recent history. You can’t tell me otherwise.
3. Russell Wilson. He’s been insanely, incredibly, adjective-inducing-ly great throughout the first two years of his career. Perfect storm, really, as Russell’s emergence has coincided with Seattle’s young defense. Win this game, and Wilson has to be considered a top-five quarterback right now, banging on the top-three’s door.
4. Still, as with any professional sport, young stars will always take their lumps before their league’s respect gods deem them worthy of success. To date, Ben Roethlisburger is the only quarterback to win a title in his second season. Russell definitely has the same quality defense that Ben had, and he’s definitely a more successful passer than No. 7 was. But it just isn’t common. And yet…
5. If this game is a shootout, then NFL defenses really are going the way of the dinosaur. Both teams boast top-10 defenses, so expect things to stay close.
Indianapolis Colts Vs. New England Patriots (8:15 PM EST, CBS)
1. We’ve been here before, right? It’s hard to keep our inner-football nerd tamed, After years of a Peyton Manning-led Colts squad marching into battle against Team Brady, it’s only right Andrew Luck gets a taste of the storied rivalry. Maybe we’ll get a cool infographic courtesy of CBS. I BET WE WILL!
2. Maybe Deion Branch can provide some valuable insight. Even if he doesn’t play, it is pretty awesome to think about Chuck Pagano buttering Deion up just to hear some secrets. At the very least, he’ll be the only person on the planet who can really know for sure if Andrew Luck actually smells better than Tom Brady. Which has to be important to somebody out there.
3. Statistically speaking, neither team really blew any doors off this regular season. Indy ranks in the bottom half of most categories, and New England had a top-10 offense despite injuries, but their defense resembled Swiss cheese at times. On paper, it’s tough to call this game.
4. Other NFL stories are out-weighing his success, but Andrew Luck is already off to a more successful start than Peyton Manning, simply by making the playoffs in his first two years. Anything else is icing on the cake, but beating Tom Brady on the road would definitely pull everyone’s gaze away from the NFC West’s two-headed monster for a little while.
5. Bill Belichick has made a career out of turning water into wine, something he’ll be tasked with doing again against the Colts. While we have to applaud his excellent ability to keep sinking ships afloat, at some point, his luck has to run out. Right?