It’s been quite a January for football fans.
In the college game, we had a rousing New Year’s Day, with a great Rose Bowl (Michigan State beat Stanford 24-20) and a stunning Fiesta Bowl (Central Florida shocked Baylor 52-42).
The next night, OU beat Alabama 45-31 in a Sugar Bowl that had the whole nation buzzing. The night after that, OSU lost to Missouri 41-31 in a Cotton Bowl that went down to the final minute, yet was upstaged by the Orange Bowl, where Clemson rallied to beat Ohio State 40-35.
That set the stage for an NFL weekend that was typical great theater for pro football. The one game you were pretty sure of, Cincinnati-San Diego, turned out to be not only the big upset but the only game that didn’t go to the buzzer. Chargers won 27-10.
In Indianapolis, the Colts rallied from 38-10 down to win 45-44. Second-greatest comeback in NFL history.
In Philadelphia, the Saints notched their first playoff road win in franchise history, 26-24 on Shayne Graham’s 32-yard field goal on the final play. Graham was the guy brought in after New Orleans lost faith in former Sooner Garrett Hartley.
The next day, after the Bengal-Charger upset, the 49ers beat the Packers 23-20 on another last-play field goal, Phil Dawson’s 33-yarder, in one of the NFL’s great settings: a frigid day at Lambeau Field.
And just to keep it going, the next night in the Big Bowl, Florida State beat Auburn 34-31 on a touchdown pass with 13 seconds left.
Hard to imagine a better January on the gridiron. Let’s hope it continues.
Saints at Seahawks: Seattle 24-17. The Seahawks routed New Orleans in the regular season, but the Saints will play tougher this time. But not tough enough. Seattle has the NFL’s best homefield advantage, a ferocious defense and a young quarterback who doesn’t make bad plays.
Colts at Patriots: New England 34-30. Compare Indy with Cincinnati. Better receivers: Bengals. Better run game: Bengals. Better defense: Bengals. But why are the Colts still alive and the Bengals are not? Because Indianapolis has the better quarterback. Andrew Luck is the realest of deals. Unfortunately for the Colts, so is Tom Brady.
49ers at Panthers: San Francisco 16-13. Carolina won 10-9 out on the Bay. Hard to imagine a football game quarterbacked by Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton to manage one touchdown total, but that’s what happened. So let’s go crazy. Let’s say the teams will combine for two TDs this time. But the 49ers win by a field goal.
Chargers at Broncos: Denver 27-24. San Diego is going to try to take the air out of the ball. In San Diego on Nov. 10, the Chargers kept possession for 38:03, limited Denver to 60 snaps and 397 total yards, and had a chance to win before losing 28-20. A month later in Denver, San Diego kept the ball for 38:49, held Denver to 53 plays and 295 total yards, and won 27-20. In those two games combined, the Chargers ran the ball 79 times and Phil Rivers threw it 49 times. Hmm. I wonder what San Diego’s game plan will be?
Last week: 1-3. Season: 153-92-1.