The Chief Chooser went out on a limb last week in picking Indianapolis to upset New England, and when the Patriots held form a 3-1 record in the conference semifinals resulted. That outcome puts the C.C. at 165-98 (.627) for the season with three games remaining. The tough part for the C.C. is that he wishes all four remaining teams could lose … it is hard to enjoy the end of the season when you can find not one reason to root for any of the teams still alive, but, the picks must go on. Sunday will therefore, for the C.C., be a matter of (hopefully) being just a little upset, as opposed to madder than hell. Oh well …
New England at Denver, 2 p.m.
Denver went to Foxboro earlier this season and raced to a 24-0 lead before gagging away their advantage and losing, 34-31. This despite 220 yards on the ground from the very average Knowshon Moreno. Peyton Manning has produced NFL records for passing yards and touchdowns thrown and the Broncos were the highest-scoring team in regular season history, but all those aerial numbers, all the highlight-reel catches, all the gaudy scoring means very little in the end, as one of the capital ‘T’ Truths is always brought to life in the playoffs: To win you must be able to run the ball and you must to able to stop the run. Denver can do both well enough, but New England is proving of late that they are better at it, and that is the reason why the Broncos will be sent to the glue factory again this postseason … PATRIOTS 30-23.
San Francisco at Seattle, 5:30 P.M.
These teams HATE each other, at almost every level. The coaches cannot stand each other, the players revile each other and fans have learned to despise each other: In short, this should be a thing of violent beauty to behold. The teams split this year, but San Francisco has lost by a combined 55 points in their last two trips to Starbucks City. The Seahawks have frustrated Mr. Kaepernick by not blitzing him, clogging the passing lanes and keeping him bottled in the pocket … a scheme few others can pull off. Seattle also has a much-ballyhooed noise advantage that I do not believe will matter to a focused, experienced team, especially if the hosts do not grab a quick advantage. Russell Wilson’s troubles in the passing game will allow San Francisco to jam the box and limit Marshawn Lynch and that will make the difference … FORTY-NINERS 26-20.