Four games, eight great teams, infinite amounts of drama.
By Joe Bardi
on Sat, Jan 11, 2014 at 6:30 AM
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Yeah, the Bucs fell out of the playoff hunt around, oh, week four of the NFL's 16 game schedule, but that's not a reason you can't enjoy what is traditionally the best week of NFL football all year. (And judging by the ratings on last week's Niners-Packers game, many of you tuned in irrespective of the teams.) Two games on Saturday and two on sunday look to feature the best eight teams the NFL has to offer.
Kicking things off today are the New Orleans Saints, who travel to Seattle (the toughest place in the league for visiting teams to play) to play the Seahawks at 4:35 p.m. on NBC. Seattle had the best record in the league this year (13-3), and as recently as Dec. 2 waxed these same Saints 34-7. Prediction: a better game than last time, but the same result: Seahawks 31, Saints 27.
Tonight's nightcap looks to be a barnburner, as the Indianapolis Colts travel to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots. Neither team fields much of a defense, and I expect to the Pats to jump out to a big lead only to be chased down by Captain Comeback II, Andrew Luck, and the fleet-footed T.Y. Hilton. Prediction: Bet the over! Colts 51, Patriots 45.
Sunday offers even better match-ups, as The San Francisco 49ers bring a bulldozing running attack and a surplus of arm tats into Charlotte to battle AFC South champs the Carolina Panthers. (Kickoff is 1 p.m. on Fox.) The Niners dropped a 10-9 heartbreaker to the Panthers back on Nov. 10 (CL News & Politics Editor Mitch Perry — a raging Niners fan — still hasn't recovered), but two months are an eternity in the NFL. Prediction: I'll take the team (and the QB) with more playoff experience. Niners 20, Panthers 13.
And finally, the Bolo-rific Philip Rivers leads the San Diego Chargers (this year's Cinderella-in-waiting) into Denver to battle Peyton "Please Don't Let The D Blow It For Me Again" Manning and the Broncos. (kickoff is 4:40 p.m. on CBS.) This game is a popular upset pick, seeing as the Chargers beat the Broncos 27-20 in Denver on Dec. 12. That said, there's no way Manning and the denver offense doesn't pile up the points this time out. Prediction: Get ready for the supernova-sized hype of a Broncos-Colts AFC Championship Game. Broncos 42, Chargers 28.