Saturday's Divisional Playoff Previews

THE NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS

HERE’S THE SATURDAY GAME PREVIEWS AS SAINTS-SEAHAWKS, COLTS-PATRIOTS COLLIDE

By Jim Hurley:

Hey, we’re heading into what many folks annually believe is the best weekend in football with four NFL Divisional Playoff games on tap but gotta say this year’s menu really has it all:

There’s the always-popular revenge angle in both NFC Divisional Playoff games with New Orleans and San Francisco looking to get the “last laugh” in their respective games against Seattle and Carolina and there’s a Mount Rushmore of mega-star quarterbacks in the pair of AFC Divisional Playoff Games – what else would you call it when you’ve got Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck facing New England’s three-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady in one tilt and San Diego’s Philip Rivers (one of the league’s three best QBs this year) dueling in Denver with the Broncos’ sure-to-be MVP Peyton Manning?

Last week in the NFL Wild Card Round Games the underdog sides roared with a 3-0-1 ATS (against the spread) mark as Indy, New Orleans and San Diego all copped outright upset wins while it was “push city” in San Francisco’s 23-20 triumph at frosty Green Bay.

Will any/all of the dogs bark here?

We’ve got you set up with our Jim Sez NFL Divisional Playoffs beginning today with the Saturday games and we’ll have that – plus the game-by-game charts of the remaining playoff teams – just ahead but first this key reminder:

Get all the NFL Divisional Playoff Game winners – that’s both Sides & Totals -- this Saturday and Sunday when you check with us after 10 a.m. ET on game days plus there’s NBA and NCAA Basketball winners each and every day right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 – pile up the profits this winter! Last weekend Jim Hurley knocked ‘em dead going 4-1 with among others – the outright win by the SD Chargers (+6½) over Cincinnati, so make sure you’re back for more this weekend!

NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
NEW ORLEANS (12-5) at SEATTLE (13-3)
– 4:35 p.m. ET, Fox
Okay, so if we’ve all heard it once we’ve heard it a gazillion times … The NFC road to the Super Bowl goes through Seattle and, generally speaking, that’s cause for major concern for the remaining playoff teams in this conference but could the Saints now be buoyed by last week’s wild-card round playoff win in Philadelphia plus the fact that QB Drew Brees and Company were 34-7 losers in the Emerald City way back in a Week 13 game?

No doubt that New Orleans – a prohibitive 8-point underdog at press time – flipped the script last week while rushing the ball for 185 yards on 36 carries (a nifty 5.1 yards-per-carry average) as the Saints managed to overcome a two-INT game by Brees who still threw for 250 yards while leading the game-winning drive of 34 yards capped by PK Shayne Graham’s fourth made field-goal of the evening.

It’s somewhat miraculous for any NFL playoff team to win on the road when they’re minus 2 in the all-important turnover margin category but that’s what happened last week as the Saints stuffed Philly’s top-ranked rushing game (just 80 yards on the ground for the Eagles) and snagged their first-ever post-season road win but can the stars align here for Sean Payton’s team?

The host Seahawks – who’ve lost only once at home these past two years – may be everyone’s favorite to get to Super Bowl XLVIII but consider the following: Pete Carroll’s club has been hearing this “can’t lose” talk for a couple of weeks now (and maybe longer) and you wonder how Seattle is gonna respond as the heavy-duty fav here although it’s tough to find fault with a defense that ranks #1 versus the pass and #7 against the rush and wound up with 28 INTs and 44 sacks.

If Brees is gonna test this star-studded secondary here than he’ll need a monster game from TE Jimmy Graham (16 regular-season TDs) and he’s probably best off steering clear of Seahawks CB Richard Sherman (team-high 8 INTs).

Perhaps the Saints will be best served by throwing lots of swing/flare passes and hoping the likes of RB Darren Sproles can bust a move in space … we’ll see.
Seattle QB Russell Wilson – who threw for 26 TDs and 9 INTs this season – should expect to be “spied” here by a quick N’Orleans defensive back or else the second-year star will hurt the Saints with his runs. No doubt that’s a key as Wilson (539 yards rushing) must extend plays/drives with his legs or else the Saints’ vastly-improved defense under DC Rob Ryan has a shot of keeping him under wraps.

One X-factor here: Seattle is hoping that WR/KR Percy Harvin (one reception for 17 yards this year) can make an explosive play or two against the Saints’ secondary that is counting on the 100 percent health return of key CB Keenan Lewis who suffered concussion-like symptoms in last week’s playoff win.
Are the Seahawks truly “unbeatable” here at home and a “lock” to get to the Super Bowl? Hmmm.

Spread Notes – New Orleans is 9-7-1 ATS (against the spread) overall this year including last weekend’s 26-24 NFC Wild Card Round win at 3-point favorite Philadelphia. Note the Saints are 20-18-1 ATS as underdog sides in the Payton Era that started back in 2006 (and including last year when N’Orleans went 3-4 ATS as dogs while Payton was suspended for the year). On the flip side, Seattle is 11-5 versus the vig overall this year and that includes a 5-3 ATS home mark and a 7-3 spread log whenever playing non-divisional foes – the ‘Hawks are a collective 23-8-1 ATS against folks outside the NFC West the past three years (that’s a .742 winning rate).

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Here’s a game-by-game look at this year’s New Orleans Saints and note all home teams are in CAPS below:

WEEK # WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
Week 1 NEW ORLEANS - 3.5 Atlanta 23-17
Week 2 New Orleans - 3 TAMPA BAY 16-14
Week 3 NEW ORLEANS - 7.5 Arizona 31-7
Week 4 NEW ORLEANS - 7 Miami 38-17
Week 5 New Orleans PK CHICAGO 26-18
Week 6 NEW ENGLAND - 2 New Orleans 30-27
Week 7 Bye      
Week 8 NEW ORLEANS - 10.5 Buffalo 35-17
Week 9 NY JETS + 6.5 New Orleans 26-20
Week 10 NEW ORLEANS - 6.5 Dallas 49-17
Week 11 NEW ORLEANS - 3 San Francisco 23-20
Week 12 New Orleans - 7.5 ATLANTA 17-13
Week 13 SEATTLE - 6.5 New Orleans 34-7
Week 14 NEW ORLEANS - 3 Carolina 31-13
Week 15 ST. LOUIS + 7 New Orleans 27-16
Week 16 CAROLINA - 3 New Orleans 17-13
Week 17 NEW ORLEANS - 10.5 Tampa Bay 42-17
WC New Orleans + 3 PHILADELPHIA  26-24

     
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Here’s a game-by-game look at this year’s Seattle Seahawks and note all home teams are in CAPS below:

WK # WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
Week 1 Seattle - 3 CAROLINA 12-7
Week 2 SEATTLE - 3 San Francisco 29-3
Week 3 SEATTLE - 20 Jacksonville 45-17
Week 4 Seattle - 1 HOUSTON 23-20 (ot)
Week 5 INDIANAPOLIS  + 3 Seattle 34-28
Week 6 SEATTLE - 12.5 Tennessee 20-13
Week 7 Seattle - 5 ARIZONA 34-22
Week 8 Seattle -14 ST. LOUIS 14-9
Week 9 SEATTLE - 16.5 Tampa Bay 27-24(ot)
Week 10 Seattle - 3.5 ATLANTA 33-10
Week 11 SEATTLE - 13.5 Minnesota 41-20
Week 12 Bye      
Week 13 SEATTLE - 6.5 New Orleans 34-7
Week 14 SAN FRANCISCO  - 2.5 Seattle 19-17
Week 15 Seattle - 9 NY GIANTS 23-0
Week 16 Arizona + 9 SEATTLE 17-10
Week 17 SEATTLE - 11.5 St. Louis 27-9

     
INDIANAPOLIS (12-5) at NEW ENGLAND (12-4) – 8:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Let’s start you off with a couple of factoids that might just surprise you: The N’England Patriots merely have split their last six playoff home games SU (straight-up) while dating back to the 2009 season and contrast that to the Pats’ 7-and-oh SU playoff home mark from between 2003-thru-2007. Note New England’s 2-4 versus the vig in these last six playoff home tilts.

Now, note that Indianapolis is 0-3 SU and 0-3 ATS in post-season away games ever since the Colts won SB 41 way back in the 2006 season.
In other words, recent history’s not really on either team’s side here, okay?

Still, the Patriots have had those two precious weeks to rest/rehab and study film and no doubt head coach Bill Belichick’s main motto – take away the other team’s strength – has the AFC East champs looking for ways to defuse Colts’ wide-out T.Y. Hilton who last week scorched Kansas City with his 13 receptions worth 224 yards and two TDs including the 64-yard game-winner chucked by QB Andrew Luck (443 yards passing with 4 TDs and 3 INTs) in that wild 45-44 come-from-28-point-back win).

If Hilton is shadowed and/or double-teamed here, than Luck will be forced to throttle it down with TE Coby Fleener (5 catches for 46 yards and one TD last week) becoming a central character here.

On the flip side, the Colts need DE Robert Mathis – who led the NFL with 19 ½ sacks this year and made the game’s biggest play last week with his strip sack of Kansas City QB Alex Smith – to get in the grill of New England slinger Tom Brady (4,343 yards passing with a modest 25 TDs and 11 INTs) who somehow has gallantly made it to this point without a true dependable pass-catcher following the season-ending knee injury to TE Rob Gronkowski. The Pats will “chip” and double-team Mathis here, so someone else likely needs to rescue the Indy defense.

Expect the Colts to show plenty of respect for Brady’s newest favorite target WR Julian Edelman (105 receptions for 1,056 yards and 6 TDs) here although the savvy Brady may opt for lots of swing passes of his own to the likes of RBs LaGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen.

Hey, Blount could be the key figure here for New England especially after that Week 17 monster showing against Buffalo. Blount rushed for 189 yards and scored twice in a rain-filled 34-20 win/cover against the TD-underdog Bills and it won’t surprise us here if he carries the mail 25-plus times while looking to wear down the Colts’ 26th-ranked rushing defense.

If there’s a couple of X-factors at work here than check out how the kicking battle goes between ex-Pat Adam Vinatieri who now has accounted for 205 post-season points (yes, the most in NLF history) and New England’s Steve Gostkowski who nailed 38-of-41 field goals.

Finally, note the Pats surrendered 50 passing plays of 20-plus yards this year – will that tattered NE secondary be able to stand up to Mr. Luck here or will he peck away and beat ‘em once or twice with long bombs?

Spread Notes – New England is a dead-even but vig-losing 8-8 against the odds this year and that includes a snazzy 6-2 spread log at home. The Patriots are a collective 5-10 spreadwise in all post-season games since the last time they won a Super Bowl back in the 2004 season. Meanwhile, Indianapolis is 10-6-1 ATS overall this season and did you know the Colts have covered five of their seven games this year when grabbing up points? Indy’s a collective 5-0-1 ATS against divisional foes and 5-6 ATS versus non-AFC South teams this season.
 
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Here’s a game-by-game look at this year’s Indianapolis Colts and note all home teams are in CAPS below:

WK #

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

Week 1

INDIANAPOLIS

- 11

Oakland

21-17

Week 2

Miami

+ 1.5

INDIANAPOLIS

24-20

Week 3

Indianapolis

+ 10.5

SAN FRANCISCO

27-7

Week 4

Indianapolis

- 9

JACKSONVILLE

37-3

Week 5

INDIANAPOLIS

+ 3

Seattle

34-28

Week 6

SAN DIEGO

+ 1.5

Indianapolis

19-9

Week 7

INDIANAPOLIS

+ 6.5

Denver

39-33

Week 8

Bye

 

 

 

Week 9

Indianapolis

- 1

HOUSTON

27-24

Week 10

St. Louis

+ 7.5

INDIANAPOLIS

38-8

Week 11

Indianapolis

- 3

TENNESSEE

30-27

Week 12

ARIZONA

- 3

Indianapolis

40-11

Week 13

INDIANAPOLIS

- 3.5

Tennessee

22-14

Week 14

CINCINNATI

- 7

Indianapolis

42-28

Week 15

INDIANAPOLIS

- 6.5

Houston

25-3

Week 16

Indianapolis

+ 7.5

KANSAS CITY

23-7

Week 17

INDIANAPOLIS

- 11.5

Jacksonville

30-10

WC

INDIANAPOLIS

+ 2

Kansas City

45-44

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Here’s a game-by-game look at this year’s New England Patriots and note all home teams are in CAPS below:

WK #

WINNER

SPREAD

LOSER

SCORE

Week 1

New England

- 10

BUFFALO

23-21

Week 2

NEW ENGLAND 

- 11

Ny Jets

13-10

Week 3

NEW ENGLAND

- 7

Tampa Bay

23-3

Week 4

New England

+ 3

ATLANTA

30-23

Week 5

CINCINNATI

+ 2

New England

13-6

Week 6

NEW ENGLAND

- 2

New Orleans

30-27

Week 7

NY JETS

+ 3.5

New England

30-27 (ot)

Week 8

NEW ENGLAND

- 6.5

Miami

27-17

Week 9

NEW ENGLAND

- 6

Pittsburgh

55-31

Week 10

Bye

 

 

 

Week 11

CAROLINA

- 3

New England

24-20

Week 12

NEW ENGLAND

PK

Denver

34-31(ot)

Week 13

New England

- 7

HOUSTON

34-31

Week 14

NEW ENGLAND

- 10

Cleveland

27-26

Week 15

MIAMI

- 2.5

New England

24-20

Week 16

New England

- 1.5

BALTIMORE

41-7

Week 17

NEW ENGLAND

- 7

Buffalo

34-20

NOTE: Get Sunday’s NFL Divisional Playoff Game Previews in tomorrow’s edition of Jim Sez.

21
Nov

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