The Divisional Round of the 2013 playoffs is here and the stars are aligning for one possible Superbowl matchup, though the reality of playoff football is that the strange stuff of the season usually happens at that point. We look at the four pending games -
SEAHAWKS over Saints - The Saints have won only once over Pete Carroll's Seahawks and that was November 2010. The last two meetings the Seahawks outscored the Saints 75-43. Russell Wilson is the real deal and Richard Sherman talks a big game yet makes plays all the same. The Saints won a road playoff game for the first ever - but this is a Seahawks team that they haven't been able to figure out.
PATRIOTS over Colts - The Colts pulled off a history-making comeback win over Kansas City, but all they did in such was restore order - the Colts have owned the Chiefs since 1990 (13 wins in their last 15 meetings) and the Patriots are not the Chiefs. The Patriots have owned the Colts pretty much since they moved to Indianapolis and in Andrew Luck's first meeting with the Patriots he threw three interceptions in a 59-24 massacre in 2012. After not throwing a pick in his previous two games this year Luck tossed up three last week and has four in two career playoff games. The Patriots also know a few things about comeback wins, especially this season. Indy's late signing of former Patriot Deion Branch indicates some desperation there.
PANTHERS over 49ers - The Panthers are 11-7 lifetime against the 49ers and have won four straight. Cam Newton's gang edged the Niners at The Stick 10-9 earlier this season and have been on fire since starting 1-3. The Niners certainly aren't slouches at 12-4 and winners of their last seven games. Colin Kaepernick was let loose against Green Bay and that made him more dangerous in that game; he's also second in rushing behind Frank Gore. The Panthers can use Stevonne Smith and that massive chip on his shoulder for this game.
CHARGERS over Broncos - In nine career games against Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning is 4-5 with two playoff losses; he's also thrown some sixteen interceptions in those games. The Chargers already beat the Broncos in their own building a few weeks back and have been riding momentum on through their Freezer Bowl rematch at Cincinnati last week, and Peyton's playoff history bodes ill for the Broncos - between cold weather and the fact of being in a playoff game, Manning is at his worst. Rivers is now a .500 quarterback in playoff games and Manning remains with a losing playoff record. Among the subplots is Broncos coordinator Jack Del Rio, whose defenses have been pierced virtually every game.
Expect the unexpected, but also plan for San Diego @ New England and Carolina @ Seattle - with the Patriots-Panthers rematch still on the potential horizon.