NFL INSIDER: Home won't help Seahawks, Panthers

2014-01-09T18:14:00Z 2014-01-10T00:59:08Z NFL INSIDER: Home won't help Seahawks, PanthersMatt Erickson Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
January 09, 2014 6:14 pm  • 

In the opening week of the playoffs, we talked about how homefield advantage wasn't likely to be the case.

For the most part, that proved true. The Saints, 49ers and Chargers all went on the road and won. And the Chiefs … well, we won't talk about their second-half implosion.

Will being at home matter as much this week? For some, yes.

New Orleans (12-5) at Seattle (13-3)

3:35 p.m. Saturday, Fox. Seahawks -8 (46.5).

The skinny: The knock on the Saints was that they can't win on the road. But they pushed that to the side last week to win in Philly. Winning in Seattle, though, is a different matter altogether. Just six weeks ago, the Saints traveled to Seattle and got blown out, 34-7. The Seahawks aren't completely impervious at home, having lost to the Cardinals in Week 16. And because my preseason pick was Saints-Broncos in the Super Bowl, I can't pull away now. The Saints, behind a big day from Drew Brees, will pull off the shocker.

MattE’s pick: Saints 31, Seahawks 26.

COLTS (12-5) at New England (12-4)

7:15 p.m. Saturday, CBS. Patriots -7 (52.5).

The skinny: The Colts, let's be honest, are fortunate to be here. We can't really call it lucky – it's not luck when you're getting your butt kicked and pull off a stunning rally at home. But they know how close they were to watching this one from home, and they'll be a game test for the rested Patriots. But this is where playoff experience pays off for Tom Brady, even though he doesn't have as strong a supporting cast around him as he once did. A Colts win could signal a changing of the guard to Andrew Luck from years of Brady and Manning in the AFC. But Luck and the Colts will fall just short.

MattE’s pick: Patriots 28, Colts 24.

San Francisco (13-4) at Carolina (12-4)

Noon Sunday, Fox. 49ers -1 (42).

The skinny: The Niners will be looking for revenge for a November loss at home, 10-9, to these same Panthers. The Panthers haven't lost at home since the opening week of the season, when they fell to No. 1 seed Seattle. So it may be a tall order for San Fran. But the Niners have been solid on the road, only losing to the Saints and Seahawks, and in a matchup of arguably the NFL's two most mobile quarterbacks, I think Colin Kaepernick has a slight edge over Cam Newton. It should be close, but the Niners can stay close and win late, just like in Green Bay last week.

MattE’s pick: 49ers 27, Panthers 24.

San Diego (10-7) at Denver (13-3)

3:40 p.m. Sunday, CBS. Broncos -9.5 (54.5).

The skinny: The Broncos beat the Chargers on the road, but lost to them at home in the regular season. But that shouldn't have any bearing this week. After a fantastic upset win over Cincinnati on the road in the opening week, the Bolts' Cinderella story will be short-lived. The Broncos, rested for a week, simply have too much firepower, and at home in January, too much from the 12th man for San Diego to endure. It should be a big passing day for Peyton Manning, who is just 9-11 all time in the playoffs, but has three big wins on his mind right now.

MattE’s pick: Broncos 37, Chargers 20.

2013 record

Last week: 1-3 straight up, 3-0-1 against the spread. Regular season: 165-90-1 (.647) straight up, 131-115-10 (.533) against the spread.

Matt Erickson is an award-winning journalist whose NFL picks have appeared in The Times for 12 seasons. He covers mixed martial arts for The Times and as assistant MMA editor for USA Today and MMAjunkie.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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