Now that the undercard has a winner – Alabama in a blowout to the surprise of very few – and Nick Saban and his lads have savored the 24 hours he gave them to enjoy their most recent national championship, attention can turn away from A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend and back to the NFL playoffs.
Eight teams are still standing and so, by the way, is Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who deserves another season here.
There were no great NFL surprises last weekend except for the fact that Seattle’s Russell Wilson, not Indy’s Andrew Luck or Washington’s Robert Griffin III, advanced to play another game.
I’ll admit to having been a holdout on Wilson being an exceptional quarterback and here’s why: I saw him play in person twice at N.C. State. Both games were against South Carolina and Wilson’s team lost both games by a combined score of 41-3.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
That tends to make you wonder what all the fuss is about.
I get it now, so save the emails.
On to the weekend:
SEATTLE at ATLANTA: The Falcons, as you may have heard, haven’t won a playoff game since 2004 (back when everyone went to see the movie “Sideways”). The Seahawks, on the other hand, haven’t won one since last Sunday.
The pressure, therefore, is squatting like a sumo wrestler on the Falcons, who have spent the season being as ignored as a 13-3 team can be. They’re the pretzels on an appetizer bar that includes shrimp, crab claws and bacon-wrapped scallops.
That doesn’t mean the Falcons aren’t very good. It just means, like Atlanta, they aren’t very sexy.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, have gotten more air miles than Hillary Clinton. They fly cross-country as routinely as some of us put on sweat pants at home in the evening. Aside from what happened to RG3 last Sunday, it was evident the Seahawks were just better than the Redskins.
And they’re not done yet. Seahawks 24, Falcons 20.
BALTIMORE at DENVER: Last weekend was about Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. He got to do his Ray Lewis dance twice and it was a nice touch putting him on the field for the final play in his final game in Baltimore.
Now it’s about Peyton Manning – again.
Remember early in the season when Manning had a bad prime-time game and there were all these questions about whether he’d lost the zip on his passes? Was he done? Had Denver blown it?
That’s the beauty of the never-ending news cycle. It’s always something.
There’s nothing wrong with Peyton Manning but we know that now. The Broncos are the unofficial team to beat in the Super Bowl race.
Denver might get beat. But not this weekend. Broncos 31, Ravens 17.
GREEN BAY at SAN FRANCISCO: The regular season opened with the 49ers beating the Packers 30-22 but that was a long time ago.
Andy Reid was still in Philadelphia. Lovie Smith was still in Chicago. Alex Smith was still the 49ers quarterback.
Things are different now. Perhaps you’ve noticed.
Quarterbacks win playoff games. Aaron Rodgers plays for the Packers. I don’t know if it’s algebra or geometry or just plain old math, but it’s easy to figure out. If A is better than B or something like that. Packers 28, 49ers 20.
HOUSTON at NEW ENGLAND: On Dec. 10, the Texans lost 42-14 to the Patriots in Foxboro. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots did what they’ve traditionally done against an opponent with Wade Phillips coaching.
The Texans, naturally, are insisting this time will be different.
It probably will be. But not much different. Patriots 34, Texans 17.
Last week: 4-0