NFL Playoff Picks Against the Spread: Broncos to Struggle Against Chargers, Michael Crabtree to Lead 49ers Past Panthers

Philip RiversThe divisional round of the playoffs might be the best weekend of the NFL season. Like wild-card weekend, it’s a jam-packed two days with four games, and unlike wild-card weekend, the best of the best are going at it.

If this weekend is anything like last weekend, football fans are in for another incredible weekend of football.

The NESN.com NFL picks are back for another week of pigskin prognostication, and the gang’s all here. NESN.com editors John Beattie, Mike Cole, Doug Kyed and Luke Hughes have all made their picks for this glorious football weekend. Read on and see their choices for this weekend’s action below.

All lines are from Bovada as of Thursday.

Saints at SEAHAWKS (-8)

John: This line isn’t just too low, it’s a slap in the face for Seattle. This is bulletin board material, if you ask me. The Seahawks were 6 1/2-point favorites at home Dec. 2 against this Saints team and spanked them 34-7, holding Drew Brees‘ offense to just 188 total yards. The Seahawks got better since then, becoming No. 1 in the NFL in average points, yards and passing yards allowed. SEAHAWKS

Mike: This just isn’t a great matchup for the Saints at all. The Seahawks have the type of secondary that can neutralize the New Orleans passing attack. The Saints aren’t a great road team, and Seattle is the league’s best home team. The Saints don’t have a great rush defense, while the Seahawks have one of the best running backs in the game in Marshawn Lynch. I mean, other than that, it’s pretty even. SEAHAWKS 

Doug: Yes, the Saints had to win on the road to beat the Eagles, but this is still a matchup between a team that struggled all season on the road against the Seahawks, who have the best home-field advantage in the NFL. Seattle is nearly indestructible at CenturyLink Field. Quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are going to romp over the Saints, just as they did in Week 13. SEAHAWKS

Luke: The 27-point rout in Week 13 showed just how good the Seahawks are, but it also left the Saints with a really sour taste in their mouths. Seattle’s 12th man is for real, and CenturyLink Field will be rocking Saturday afternoon, but Sean Payton and Brees will be ready this time around — heck, they’re even preparing on a Seahawks-themed practice field. Wilson probably finds a way to win in the end, but New Orleans will make it too close for comfort. SAINTS

Colts at PATRIOTS (-7 1/2)

John: The Patriots will win this game, but it’s just a question of by how much. Last week’s win over the Chiefs likely took a lot out of the Colts, but the weather will be a factor here, as it’s expected to be a rainy Saturday in Foxboro. Pats fans have to like their ground game (LeGarrette Blount!) heading into this soggy one, and it’s always fun to watch a young, big-headed opposing quarterback storm into Gillette in January, only to mess his pants. PATRIOTS

Mike: I want to take the Colts and the points, I really do. But that thought keeps being overtaken by the belief that the Patriots will just absolutely blow the Colts’ doors off. You could make the argument that Andrew Luck and Chuck Pagano are poised to become the next Brady-Belichick duo, but not quite yet. The Patriots don’t lose these games with those two at the helm, and going up against a defense that was average at best this season, even in the AFC South, I’ll take the Pats in a rout. PATRIOTS

Doug: Winning by more than seven points has been a struggle for the Patriots all season. Just five of New England’s 12 wins came by more than two scores. These two teams have kept games close all season, and I don’t see this one going any differently. I think the Patriots will win, but it will be by one score. COLTS

Luke: It’s been almost seven years since Spygate, but that didn’t stop Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton from making a wisecrack about it Wednesday. Bill Belichick doesn’t do well with disrespect, and the Patriots certainly will have that slight in the back of their minds on Saturday. Even a little extra motivation won’t help Tom Brady and friends overcome the elements, though. The Patriots still win this game, but torrential downpours and sloppy field conditions will keep it close. Stephen Gotskowski out-Vinatieries Adam Vinatieri for the win! COLTS

49ers at PANTHERS (+3)

John: The Panthers are in the postseason for just the second time since 2005 (in their 2008 divisional-round loss to the Cardinals, Jake Delhomme threw five picks! This is totally irrelevant but extremely funny). Anyways, the 49ers are already planning a trip to Seattle next weekend, making this a perfect opportunity to pick the home underdogs and see what an extremely motivated Cam Newton can do. PANTHERS

Mike: Nobody did a better job bottling up Newton this season than the 49ers when these two teams met earlier this season. While the Panthers did win that game — on the road, even — there’s just something about that matchup that seems dicey for Newton and the Panthers. Don’t be surprised if the Niners are able to get to Newton, either. They sacked him three times in that Week 10 matchup, just a small sampling of the 43 sacks Newton took this season. 49ERS

Doug: Let’s face it: The Panthers are happy just to get into the postseason. With Newton at the helm, they’ll be able to get back plenty of times in the future. The 49ers had a rocky season, but they have really turned it on since wide receiver Michael Crabtree has returned from injury (they’ve won six straight including Sunday’s victory over the Packers). We’re destined for a 49ers-Seahawks matchup. 49ERS

Luke: The Panthers didn’t just get into the postseason — they even finagled their way into a first-round bye. Wins against the Patriots and these very same 49ers earlier in the year proved they are for real, but just getting to the playoffs might have been the cherry on top of the sundae for Carolina this season. With Crabtree back in the mix, the Panthers are going to see a very different Colin Kaepernick this time around, and the result will reflect it. “Riverboat” Ron Rivera might have the best nickname ever, but even that won’t be enough to pull out a win. 49ERS

Chargers at BRONCOS (-9)

John: The Chargers’ run is coming to an end. It has to, right? But let’s give these lads from San Diego a little love as they see their way out. San Diego has won five straight but lost seven of their first 12 games. That seems like a lot of defeats, and it is, but the Chargers only lost by an average of about six points. They split with the Broncos this season (winning in Denver, mind you), but that was with a healthy Ryan Mathews, and Peyton Manning didn’t have Wes Welker, who is expected to play Sunday. Pats fans will be cheering on those Chargers, so I will, too. CHARGERS

Mike: Picking games against the spread is really hard, you guys. It just feels like we’re heading for a Patriots-Broncos matchup in the AFC Championship, so my gut says to pick the Broncos. Seriously, that’s my main reason for thinking Denver wins this game. This one probably will be close for some of the game, but Denver has too many weapons offensively not to pull away late. Manning and Co. are well-rested, and that should be enough for them to win and cover. At least that’s the way it feels. Whatever that means. BRONCOS

Doug: The loss of outside linebacker Von Miller really hurts the Broncos. And if Denver lost to the Chargers at home with Miller, what exactly is going to happen without the All-Pro pass rusher? This game could go either way. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is 2-0 against Manning in the playoffs, but it’s obvious Manning has the better team this year. CHARGERS

Luke: The Broncos were held to fewer than 30 points just three times this season, and the Chargers were responsible for two of them. Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano — yup, that’s Chuck’s brother — knows how to bother Manning (spitballs and wet willies), and he’ll do it again Sunday. A full arsenal of receivers will be a nice change for Manning, but San Diego’s clock-killing running game will keep Manning out of sync and off the field. The Broncos might be the heavy favorites, but don’t sleep on the bolo — hey now, Rivers. CHARGERS

Photo via Twitter/@BlitzTheSeahawk

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