There really isn't any exposition needed here, given the enormous number of words I've already cast about regarding the regular season. I could go on my usual rant about how teams that do not have winning records should not be in the playoffs, but the Packers have a half game escape clause this year. So, without further ado ...
New Orleans Saints (6) at Philadelphia Eagles (3)
The story line for this game is already well worn. The Saints don't play well outside of the Super Dome. They play worse in weather, and Phily is under threat of sub-zero temps for the night kickoff. Yes, we know. Everyone has said it. The problem with taking a negative view of what a team can't do, is that it somewhat ignores what the opponent absolutely can do. It's been easy to discount the Eagles while we've all had a good chuckle at the expense of the NFC East. That laughter is well earned when looking at the New York Football Interception Machine or the Federal Capital Indiginous Persons Of A Particularly Ruddy Hue. Meanwhile, the Eagles fielded the second best offense in the NFL, ha ha, and won 7 of their last 8 games. LeSean McCoy scurried away with the rushing title, and Nick Foles racked up a better passer rating than Peyton fricking Manning. They managed to crush the Lions in the worst blizzard I remember ever seeing on a game day. Still, Drew Brees is a master at the position, Sean Payton is an excellent coach and Philadelphia has the third worst defense in the pros. I don't think this will be the weather based stomping that so many expect. In fact, with full understanding that the 'Niners and Chiefs are not even remotely underdogs, this could be *the* upset of the week.
New Orleans - 31, Philadelphia - 34
San Fransisco 49ers (5) at Green Bay Packers (4)
Green Bay did not back into the playoffs, they got carried in on the crash cart. I freely admit that when Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone, I was writing them off. But then, with a thunderclap amidst a chorus of cheese-heads, Rodgers returned and saved the day. One simply cannot ignore that Green Bay has the offensive chops to win against anyone. Eddie Lacy has well staked his claim for offensive rookie of the year. Randall Cobb is back. And the Packers have Rodgers, for whom all things are possible. Unfortunately, they also have a truly crappy run defense without Clay Matthews, the kind of defense that has Frank Gore drooling into his Wheatees. The 'Niners are power football team, designed to keep feet on the ground and punch through opponents, good for all weathers. I can call this game based on one simple fact: Aaron Rodgers don't play defense.
San Fransisco - 24, Green Bay - 21
Kansas City Chiefs (5) at Indianapolis Colts (4)
Of all this weekend's games, this is the hardest to noodle out. It will be indoors, so weather isn't a factor. The Chiefs are rested off their defacto bye week (sorry, Pittsburgh fans). The Colts have played more solid each of the last 3 weeks, since being pummeled by the Bengals. And it is their defense which has risen. We've seen how good these Colts can be. They were the first to beat Seattle, the first to beat Denver and the only team out of the AFC West to beat Kansas City, just 2 short weeks ago. It is that game that should highlight what Andy Reid must do on Saturday. Forget Alex Smith, or Dwayne Bowe. Forget KC's dwindling pass rush. This team is carried on the back of Jamaal Charles. Charles had an enemic performance (at best) against Indy the last time, with limited touches and almost no involvement in the passing game. For KC to win this game, that has got to change, for a full 60 minutes.
Kansas City - 17, Indianapolis - 20
San Diego Chargers (6) at Cincinnati Bengals (3)
Only one AFC team has a top three defense, and despite the KC hype it should be no surprise that it's the Bengals. They hold the front, pressure the pocket, they don't get penalties and they stuff the run. Cinci was 4-1 in the month of December, beginning the month by defeating the Chargers in sunny southern California. It is not so pleasant in southern Ohio come January. They also rolled through December scoring over 30 points 3 times, crushing the Colts, Vikings and Ravens. Of course, the Chargers also roared through December at 4-1, beating the Chiefs and Broncos along the way. CW has it that teams which enter the playoffs with momentum have the upper hand. This is truly one case where the CW is complete crap. Let's be clear here. Rivers has had a career type year. The diminuative Danny Woodhead has proven again to be a Giant Slayer. Keenan Allen has also made his bid for Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Eddie Royal is still pretending that he can be a starter. But the Chargers needed overtime to defeat the Chiefs' second team, and they didn't defeat the Broncos as much as that Denver offense went flat cold. So this game really boils down to the Cincinnati offense and and whether or not Andy Dalton can engineer a win with Giovani Bernard and Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis. Uh, yes. Yes, I think he can.
San Diego - 23, Cincinnati - 38