San Franscico 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers (10:05 am PT/12:05 pm CT, FOX) - If last night was a great defensive schowcase for the Seahawks, then this grudge match between San Fran and Carolina will be a showcase between two of the best, most physical defenses playing. Carolina's top linebacker Luke Kuechly has been terrific in his 2nd year in the pros, and the Panthers boast the second best defense in the NFL (301.2 yards/game). San Fran is no pushover, boasting a shutdown front seven, ranging from Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks to Justin Smith and Patrick Willis. The two QB's are a part of the new school-style of playmakers who have a good arm, a great run game, and can keep plays alive with their legs - Colin Kapernick and Cam Newton. The last time these two played, it was Week 10, and the game was a low-scoring affair and the Panthers won 10-9.
My pick: 49ers - This team is getting better and healthier at the right time. Michael Crabtree is back from injury, and the offense is probably one of the best on the postseason with Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis in the air and Frank Gore on the ground. And in a game of physical D, I trust Kap to make the big plays to get the victory.
San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos (1:40 pm PT/3:40 pm CT, CBS) - Everthing on paper screams Denver should take care of the surging Bolts today: Wes Welker, who's been out with a concussion for the last 6-7 weeks with a concussion is at full strength, as well as cornerback Defensive Backs Champ Bailey and Dominic Rodgers-Cromarte. Our go-to power back Ryan Mathews is a game-time decision with an aggrivated knee injury. Denver boasts the best offense in the history of the NFL with a total of 600+ total points scored. Manning has 5477 yards passing, breaking Drew Brees's single-season record two years ago, and has thrown for 55 touchdowns, also a new single-season record. And he has limitless weapons at his disposal - Eric Decker, Julis Thomas, Knowshown Moreno, Demaryus Thomas and Welker. Add to the fact that Manning wants to atone for last year's AFC Divisonal game debacle where Baltimore tied the game and played two overtime matches for them to get the victory and eventually win Super Bowl XLVII. There should be no chance in Hell that San Diego pulls off, what would be, the biggest upset in recent postseason memory, right?
My pick: Chargers (UPSET) - ....And yet, that's exactly what I think they could do. Why???? Because San Diego has Peyton's number. They're 2-0 vs. Manning in the playoffs, including one in the Divisonal round in 2008, back when he was with Indy and boasted superior firepower as well. Phillip Rivers is 6-2 all time as a starter when playing at Invesco Field and the defense is playing great football with the return of pass rusher Melvin Ingram. There's something about this team that knows what they're up against and know full well that they don't stand a chance, and yet, they don't care. They're playing with house money and have nothing to lose.