You couldn’t have asked for a more exciting opening round to the NFL playoff, with three of the four games thrillers that went down to the very end , or nearly so.
The Indianapolis Colts’ astonishing rally from 28 points down in the 3rd quarter to beat the Kansas City Chiefs topped even the two games that were won on the very last play – with the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers kicking last-second, game-winning field goals to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers.
An odd thing about the first round was that the visiting team won three of the four games, and would have won all four if Kansas City could have held that 28-point lead at NFL playoff.
As for the second round of NFL playoff, the Las Vegas lines have the NFC top-seed Seattle Seahawks favored by 8 points over New Orleans, the AFC #2 seed New England Patriots favored by 7 over Indianapolis, San Francisco favored by 2 to 2.5 over the NFC #2 seed Carolina Panthers, and the AFC top-seed Denver Broncos favored by 9 to 10 over San Diego.
I don’t think either of the dome teams – New Orleans and Indianapolis – are going to win on the road next weekend. Both have historically struggled away from their domes in playoff games, and Seattle and New England are tough places to play.
I think San Diego has a better chance of pulling an upset next week than either the Saints or Colts, and I’m a bit surprised the point spread is so high for the Denver-San Diego matchup.
This may be due to the fact that many fans remember how hot Denver started the season, looking like the best team in NFL history in some games, with an offence on a record-setting pace led by Peyton Manning.
If I was Denver, I’d be more concerned about San Diego than any other team in the AFC. Don’t forget San Diego already beat the Broncos in Denver on Dec 12. They’re much better right now than their 9-7 record.
Also, it hasn’t escaped my notice that Denver went 13-3 this year, and those three losses were to the three AFC teams left in the playoffs – San Diego, New England, and Indianapolis.
Denver should be wary of New England, who have had much success against Peyton Manning his whole career, and much recent success against Denver, going 4-0 against the Broncos the past three seasons.
And then there’s the concern that Peyton Manning doesn’t seem to play as well in cold weather, though the forecast is calling for temperatures above freezing for next weekend in Denver.
In spite of all this, I still think Denver has a great shot to get to the Super Bowl. They’re probably the AFC’s best team and have a huge home-field advantage. Overconfidence may be their worst enemy (Was it overconfidence last year that led to the upset loss to the Ravens?). Last year’s shocking loss to Baltimore may actually help them now.
The 49ers being favored at Carolina doesn’t surprise me, and that’s not a knock on the Panthers. Some observers are openly saying they think the 49ers are the leagues’s best team right now. I think they’re at least in the top three, along with Seattle and Denver.
My preseason Super Bowl pick was Seattle and Denver, and I don’t see any reason to jump ship now. I’ll pick all four favorites to win next weekend, but I think the Broncos are the most likely to get upset by a San Diego team that has already played them tough twice this season.