Who s it going to be?
Will Peyton Manning and the Broncos leave Mile High Stadium in disarray for the second straight year, this time at the hands of their giddy bolo tie wearing division rival? Will the decibel-defying fans at CenturyLink Field finally be silenced as Drew Brees has his revenge on Seattle?
Because if recent history is any indication, at least one of the two number one seeds is going down. Since the 2005 season, both the AFC and NFC s top-ranked playoff teams have advanced to the conference championships just once. In 2009, both the Saints and Colts won their divisional round matchups. Both ended up advancing to the Super Bowl the following Sunday.
But beyond that? Someone has always false started in their first playoff game. In two instances the Patriots and Falcons in the 2010 season and Titans and Giants in the 2008 campaign it was both teams.
Perhaps it s the bye week that throws a team s momentum or most likely just that the gap between a No.1 seed and No. 4 or 5 in the NFL just isn t that wide. The whole any given Sunday blather, even if it happens to be a Saturday night.
Maybe this season breaks the trend, but it s easy to see how both favorites are at risk of being one and done.
The Broncos are a ten point favorite, but it s the Chargers who served them their only home loss of the season. Peyton Manning s 9-11 career playoff record pales to his regular season triumphs and the team s secondary remains as vulnerable as they were in last season s double overtime loss to the Ravens. Then you have a Chargers team that has hit its stride, winning five straight games and entering Sunday s contest with the confidence of a Vegas conventioneer at a hot craps table.
The Seahawks, an eight point favorite over New Orleans, owned the Saints in Week 13 s 34-7 win. Drew Brees team was 3-5 on the road in 2013, but showed plenty of tenacity last weekend by going into Philadelphia last weekend and gutting out a 26-24 win over the Eagles. CenturyLink Field will be another animal, but the Saints are primed after two must-win games in consecutive weeks while the Seahawks lost two of their final four regular season contests. The Seahawks top-ranked pass defense will likely force the Saints to establish more of a running presence to have any chance of an upset. New Orleans running back Mark Ingram rushed for the second-most yards of his career last weekend and will have to assert himself in the same manner Saturday.