John Boell Newsday sports writer John Boell

Boell has worked in the Newsday sports department in various capacities since 1999. In 2010, he became Newsday's

Let's call this Rematch Weekend. With the exception of Indianapolis-New England, the other three divisional-round games are rematches from the regular season. Seattle crushed New Orleans, 34-7, in Week 13, Carolina beat San Fran, 10-9, in Week 10, and Denver (28-20 in Week 10) and San Diego (27-20 in Week 15) won on the other's home field.


SAINTS at SEAHAWKS, 4:35 p.m.

Seahawks by 8; O/U: 46 1/2

TV: Ch. 5; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)

The Saints exorcised a demon by winning their first road playoff game in franchise history (0-5 previously) last week. They have an even greater challenge this weekend in the Emerald City vs. the Seahawks and their 12th Man. New Orleans suffered its worst loss of the season, a 34-7 shelling at Seattle on Monday Night Football in Week 13. It was the Saints' lowest offensive output since Oct. 2008. This is also a rematch of a memorable wild-card playoff game three years ago, when the 7-9 Seahawks stunned the Saints in Seattle. I've backed the Seahawks most of the year, and for good reason: a 7-1 against the spread (ATS) mark at home and they've won 15 of their last 16 there. But I think Drew Brees and the offense does enough to cover the spread. Seattle wins, 27-23.

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The pick: Saints

COLTS at PATRIOTS, 8:15 p.m.

Patriots by 7 1/2; O/U: 52

TV: Ch. 2; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)

I'm still in awe of the Colts' 28-point comeback against Kansas City last week. I thought when the Chiefs kicked a field goal to get to 41 points, they'd stay clear of Indy. But Colts QB Andrew Luck seemed like he became an honorary Blues Brother ("We're on a mission from God") and refused to let his team lose. But they didn't cover. Call it tough Luck. So how much of the comeback did Tom Brady see? "I didn't watch one snap of Indy's offense," Brady said, "nor will I this week." So much for a veteran QB vs. youngster QB battle. I'm not even sure who the Patriots have on their roster that is healthy, but they still have Bill Belichick and Brady, who is 17-7 in the postseason. The Pats make their eighth AFC title game in the last 13 seasons with a 30-20 win.

The pick: Patriots


49ERS at PANTHERS, 1:05 p.m.

Pick 'em; O/U: 42

TV: Ch. 5; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)

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As the real-estate saying goes, it's all about location, location, location. To me, when it comes to sports, it's all about timing, timing, timing. When the 49ers lost at home, 10-9, to Carolina on Nov. 10, they were without receiver Michael Crabtree (injured Achilles). He was back to his old form with eight catches for 125 yards in last week's win at Green Bay. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is also surrounded by the talents of receiver Anquan Boldin, tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore. I think the Panthers' defense -- one of the best this season -- will have its hands full. Two of the hottest teams in the league, the 49ers have won seven straight while the Panthers are 11-1 in their last 12. I'll take the more experienced 49ers to make their third straight NFC title game, 21-16.

The pick: 49ers

CHARGERS at BRONCOS, 4:40 p.m.

Broncos by 9 1/2; O/U: 54 1/2

TV: Ch. 2; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)

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Peyton Manning set or tied six individual NFL single-season records, and Denver set or tied six regular-season NFL marks on offense. Still, the only number that matters to Manning's detractors is his career 9-11 playoff record, including eight one-and-done postseasons. The only visiting team to win in Denver this season was San Diego. First-year coach Mike McCoy was Denver's offensive coordinator for four seasons. The Chargers led the NFL in time of possession and third-down efficiency. That sounds like a good formula to keep Manning & Co. on the sidelines for long stretches. Even with all that, Denver has too many offensive weapons -- plus, the reminder of last year's shocking loss to the Ravens -- not to make the AFC title game. Denver advances, 31-27.

The pick: Chargers

STAFF PICKS (best bets in caps)

JOHN BOELL (116-137-7, 2-2): Saints Patriots 49ERS Chargers

BOB GLAUBER (134-119-7, 1-3): SEAHAWKS Patriots 49ers Broncos

KIMBERLEY A. MARTIN (133-120-7, 3-1): Seahawks Colts 49ERS Chargers

TOM ROCK (119-134-7, 3-1): Saints PATRIOTS 49ers Chargers