Saints at Seahawks
When: Saturday, 4:35 p.m. EST (FOX)
Records: Saints 12-5, Seahawks 13-3
Favorite: Seahawks by 8.
Storyline: New Orleans finally won a playoff game on the road last week for the first time in franchise history, but can the Saints avenge a blowout loss a little more than a month ago in Seattle, where the Seahawks have won 15 of their past 16?
About the Saints: Held to their fewest points and yards (188) in the Sean Payton era in the 34-7 loss Dec. 2. Eight-time Pro Bowler Drew Brees has an 84.0 passer rating on the road compared to 126.3 at home, and he'll be throwing at the NFL's No. 1 pass defense. But the Saints are less dependent on the pass, running 36 times for 185 yards last week, as Mark Ingram has gained traction. The rock-solid defense is No. 2 vs. the pass and No. 4 overall. Looking for a lucky charm? No. 6 seeds are 5-2 vs. No. 1 seeds in the divisional round since 2005.
About the Seahawks: Led the league in total defense (273.6 ypg), and the secondary headed by CB Richard Sherman and S Earl Thomas picked off an NFL-high 28 passes and held opposing quarterbacks to a 63.4 rating. The defense allowed 25 yards or fewer rushing in two of the past three games. Russell Wilson and the offense slumped late, yet the QB threw seven TD passes and just one pick over his past four home games and was brilliant against the Saints. He'll have WR Percy Harvin back, as well. Look for a steady diet of RB Marshawn Lynch, held to 45 yards in the Dec. 2 game.
Prediction: Seahawks, 27-20. It'll be closer this time, but New Orleans can't buck Seattle in its den of din.
Colts at Patriots
When: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. (CBS)
Records: Colts 12-5, Patriots 12-4
Favorite: Patriots by 7.
Story line: Young gun Andrew Luck, who already has engineered 11 fourth-quarter rallies (most by a two-year starter since 1970), challenges the old master of the comeback, Tom Brady, who has produced 41 victories in which the Patriots trailed or were tied entering the final period.
About the Colts: Luck shows an uncanny knack for winning close games. He is 14-2 in games decided by seven points or fewer. The topper came last week, when Indy rallied from a 28-point deficit to beat Kansas City 45-44. But that was in a friendly home dome. Luck and his favorite target, T.Y. Hilton, will be up against one of the best cornerback tandems in the league, Aqib Talib and Logan Ryan, who combined for nine INTs. DE Robert Mathis led the league with 191/2 sacks, but the defense has numerous injuries.
About the Patriots: They're 8-4 in games decided by seven points or fewer. A lot of close calls because Brady has cobbled together a patchwork receiving core all season and doesn't have a deep threat. Julian Edelman frequently bailed him out while making 105 catches. Brady's 87.3 passer rating is his lowest since his first full season (2003), and he's been sacked 40 times. The Pats do have an effective rushing quartet, ninth in total yardage. Stopping the run is a concern, but Indy isn't a reliable rushing team.
Prediction: Patriots, 38-28. They are 8-0 at home, 14-4 in home playoff games and too battle-tested for the Colts.
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