Three Top Seeds Defend Home Turf in Divisional Round
Wild card weekend was, in fact, wild; divisional weekend was, tobe sure, mild.
To review, in the two weekends ago, four teams attempted to defend their home turf, and three were dethroned, in front of their own fans, completely in gobsmacked at what transpired.
It could have been a lot worse. The Indianapolis Colts had home-field advantage against the Kansas City Chiefs. After spotting Kansas City a 28-point lead, the Colts decided to wake up and realize that they were actually playing in a playoff game. Andrew Luck, who overcame three costly interceptions, was the catalyst during the Colts' spectacular comeback. He even added some 'luck' of his own when he scooped up a Donald Brown fumble inside Chiefs territory and ran it in himself. His play, although wildly erractic at times, helped propel the Colts to victory.
The Eagles lost a stunner at home to the seasoned and well experienced Saints.
The Packers couldn't hold serve against the 49ers -- even with the return of Aaron Rodgers -- and lost a squeaker, 23-20.
The Bengals, who haven't had postseason success since stonewashed denim was popular, played poorly under Marvin Lewis again and lost big-time, at home, to the Chargers.
If not for that miracle in Indianapolis, the top seeds would have gone an unprecedented, 0-4 during Wild Card weekend.
This past weekend's divisional composition was much more comfortable with a couple of juggernauts vying to stay a top the mountain.
Although the San Diego Chargers defeated the Denver Broncos earlier this season, winning twice at Mile High was too much of a task. The visitors were only able to mount a late challenge, and by then it was too late. Peyton Manning not only beat them, he beat the heavy winds in order to do it.
You can usually pencil in Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for at least one postseason win. Ring it up, but this time Brady wasn't the headliner. The Colts were exposed outside of their cozy dome by LaGarrette Blount, who spent his time on the sidelines thanking the offensive line for ripping holes in the Indy defense to the tune of four touchdowns.
When the Saints travelled to Seattle in the regular season, they were blown out, 37-7. The Seahawks were rested for the rematch, and took advantage of their familiarity with the heavy rains that comprise a Seattle January. Like the Chargers, New Orleans made things interesting at the end, but the reality was an upset was never going to happen.
Instead, that was the story in Charlotte when San Francisco invaded Carolina to face the inexperienced Panthers. The game was a smackfest of the verbal variety, but only the Niners could back it up. This is the relentless team in the playoffs, coming off a Super Bowl loss to the Ravens and hungry to get back to the promised land. Driven by Jim Harbaugh's piercing stare, if nothing else, don't count them out. It won't only be the Seattle fans causing an earthquake next week; these NFC West rivals truly despise one another, which of course makes the game destination viewing.
Home field is usually considered a three-point intangible by the sports books, but next week's semi-finals may render it as moot. New England is obviously a cold-weather club, so Denver won't offer any distractions of that ilk. And the Niners won the last time they were in the Pacific Northwest; they're focused, confident, and on a mission.
There will be numerous story lines in this week's build up, but the underlying theme will no doubt be an old bromide that has rarely been more fitting for a pair of big games: familiarity breeds contempt.