49ers at Panthers
When: 1:05 p.m. EST on Sunday
Line: 49ers by 1.
Weather: Sunny, light wind, low 50s.
Synopsis: This rematch of a regular-season game the visiting Panthers won 10-9 should be another old-school, hard-hitting affair as Carolina has the NFL's No. 2 defense and SF is No. 5. Plus, both offenses rank only in the mid-20s. SF has won six in a row, including a playoff win last week in Green Bay, while Carolina (which has won 11 of 12) was able to rest. But the Panthers have some obstacles -- QB Cam Newton will be making his first postseason start and key WR Steve Smith is nursing a knee injury but hopes to play. The 49ers need another solid game from QB Colin Kaepernick, who had a down regular season but was good last week. He'll try to get the Frank Gore-led ground game (No. 3 in the NFL) rolling, but Carolina is No. 2 vs. the run.
Bottom line, pick This should be a grind-it-out affair -- neither team is worse than seventh in the four major defensive statistical categories. We'll side with more experienced SF here.
49ers 20, PANTHERS 17
Chargers at Broncos
When: 4:40 p.m.
Line: Broncos by 91/2.
Weather: Clear, calm wind, low 30s.
Synopsis: Denver has the NFL's top offense, but SD contained it Dec. 12 as it upset the Broncos 27-20 in Denver. And earlier in the season the Chargers "held" the Broncos to 28 points, albeit in a loss, but that was nearly 10 under their season average. Still, look for a shootout here, given the expected favorable weather. SD's Philip Rivers-led passing attack was No. 4 in the NFL, and Denver's pass "D" is just 27th. Meanwhile, the Broncos are rested after being off last week and QB Peyton Manning will be ready.
Bottom line, pick SD hangs in, but its magical big late-season run (won five of six) finally ends.
BRONCOS 38, CHARGERS 31.
CAESAR'S RECORD, TOP PICKS STRAIGHT UP Last week: 1-3. Overall postseason record: 1-3.
Straight up pick of the week: SEAHAWKS (on Saturday). Last week: Wrong (Eagles). Postseason: 0-1.
vs. POINT SPREAD
Last week: 1-1-2. Overall postseason record: 1-1-2.
Pick of week vs. spread
COLTS (+7, on Saturday). Last week: Wrong (Eagles -21/2). Postseason: 0-1.
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