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Judgements: Wildcard Weekend

The SportsXchange

Yes, that was a huge win for New Orleans, which not only won a road playoff game for the first time in franchise history but did it without Drew Brees throwing for a gazillion yards and a raft of touchdowns.

But let's be honest, folks: It was little more than a stay of execution. The reason: It earned them a trip to Seattle where the Seahawks won all but one game in two years, including a 34-7 beatdown of New Orleans earlier this season.

OK, so that can happen in Seattle. Except the Saints were beaten there in the 2010 playoffs, too, when they were the defending Super Bowl champions and Seattle was a 7-9 division champion.

--2. Oh, yeah, and then there's this: Brees is 1-3 in Seattle, with his only victory in 2007.

--3. I'll tell you who's pulling hard for the Saints: 49ers fans not quite ready to close up Candlestick Park. It's not just that the 49ers can't win in Seattle, either (they lost their last two there by a combined score of 71-16); it's that if the Saints pull off the improbable it could mean Candlestick is un-retired for one more game.

--4. Those morons who claim you don't have to run the ball to succeed in today's NFL apparently missed the New Orleans and 49ers' victories. Brees didn't win that game for the Saints; Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson did, with the Saints' piling up 185 yards rushing sans Pierre Thomas. And tell me where San Francisco would've been without Colin Kaepernick's legs. Uh-huh, nowhere. They had 167 yards rushing. More importantly, the Saints ran eight times on their game-winning drive; the 49ers ran seven times. Oh, and one more thing: San Diego led everyone with 196 yards rushing, one reason Philip Rivers had to throw only 16 times.

--5. Someone please tell me momentum doesn't count for anything in the playoffs ... because it does. With five straight wins, San Diego has the longest active winning streak in the AFC, and with seven in a row, the 49ers have the longest in the NFC.

--6. Bad news, Denver: The AFC field is composed of the three teams that beat the Broncos this year (San Diego, New England and Indianapolis). Just saying.

--7. Who's got it better than San Francisco? Carolina. The Panthers beat the 49ers earlier this season, and they're home, where they haven't lost since the season opener to Seattle.

--8. It must have been cold in Green Bay. I couldn't see Ed Hochuli's biceps.

--9. On behalf of card-carrying members of Niners' Nation everywhere, I'd like say "Thank you, Cleveland, for Phil Dawson." That could've been David Akers lining up for the game-winning field goal.

--10. One look at that Green Bay-San Francisco game, and you know what the NFL is thinking: Yes, as a matter of fact, bitter cold doesn't mean a Super Bowl XLVIII calamity.

--11. Sorry, but I still don't get the second-half play-calling for Kansas City. I know the Chiefs were down star running back Jamaal Charles, and I understand they lost second-stringer Knile Davis. But when you're up 28 points aren't you trying to burn the clock by running the ball? You can look it up. After jumping ahead 38-10, Kansas City threw ... or tried to throw ... 23 of their last 33 snaps.

--12. The early forecast is for 50 degrees in Denver Sunday, which means Peyton Manning's critics can ... as Peyton might put it ... shove their cold-weather narrative where it's not so sunny -- or something like that.

--13. Another big loser this weekend didn't even suit up. That would be New England, which draws Andrew Luck, not Andy Dalton.

--14. If you're looking to buy Jay Gruden stock, you can get it now at a rock-bottom price.

--15. San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt should be at the top of Detroit's wish list. Look what he did for Philip Rivers this season. His 105.5 passer rating tied for the best of his career. What's more, Rivers has been magnificent down the stretch, with 10 TDs, two interceptions and five victories in his last five starts.

--16. Look at it this way, Chiefs' fans. Even if your team won, it would've had trouble finding 11 guys to play next weekend.

--17. Don't get too cocky, Seattle: Five of the last top seeds in the NFC failed to reach the Super Bowl. Just saying.

--18. Dating back to 2003, the top seeds in the AFC and NFC playoffs won exactly two Super Bowls, or the same number that sixth seeds did.

--19. Yep, Green Bay's Davon House was this close to blocking Dawson's game-winning field goal, but big deal. Even if he did snuff it, it wouldn't have mattered. He was offsides, and the 49ers declined the penalty. That's the story Fox didn't tell you afterward.

--20. Good thing that San Francisco-Green Bay game didn't go into overtime. It might've cut into the Season 4 premier of "Downton Abbey."

FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED THIS WEEKEND

--1. Defense still matters. The four teams left in the NFC ranked in the top five in the league's defenses, with Seattle and Carolina ranking first and second and New Orleans and San Francisco fourth and fifth.

--2. You don't want to play Mike McCoy twice in the same season. He's 2-0 vs. teams this year the second time around, including a defeat of Denver last month.

--3. Kansas City is no better than its pass rush. It produced 35 sacks the first half of the season when the Chiefs were 8-0; it produced 13 in the nine games (including the playoffs) afterward, including four shutouts. The Chiefs were 3-6.

--4. It doesn't matter where or when Green Bay and San Francisco meet. Jim Harbaugh owns the 49ers. He's 4-0 against them, and someone wake me when the Packers figure out how to stop Colin Kaepernick.

--5. San Diego's offensive line is underrated. The Chargers played virtually the entire game without starting center Nick Hardwick, yet they not only provided solid protection for quarterback Philip Rivers (he was sacked once) but opened the holes for a running game that produced nearly 200 yards of offense.

FIVE GUYS WHO HAVE SOME EXPLAINING TO DO

--1. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton. Pardon me, but 0-3 isn't bad luck. Neither is one touchdown and six interceptions. It's called a trend, and it's a bad one if you're interested in moving to the next level.

--2. Green Bay cornerback Jarrett Bush. He took an inside angle on that critical third-and-8 on San Francisco's last drive, and Colin Kaepernick would like to extend his thanks. It was Kaepernick who ran outside Bush and down the left sidelines for 11 yards and a first down that led to the game-winning field goal.

--3. Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith. It's not just that intentional grounding call or his second-half fumble that's going to haunt him. It's that overthrown pass to a wide-open Cyrus Gray that might've clinched a victory.

--4. NBC analyst Mike Mayock. When Kansas City's Dexter McCluster caught a short pass and stepped out of bounds on third-and-11 and the Chiefs up by three, Mayock said, "That's OK." Huh? Actually, no, it wan't. It meant another Ryan Succop field goal, which meant a six-point lead for a team that played the second half without a defense. So why is taking the field goal "OK" when the inevitable touchdown wins the game?

--5. Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis. He's become the Marty Schottenheimer of today's game, and that's great if you want to get to the playoffs. But then what? Lewis is 0-5. Worse, his Bengals haven't scored more than 14 points in their last four playoff losses and have 64 points, period ... or an average of 12.8 per game ... in each of their five starts. Their high-water mark? Try a 31-17 loss to Pittsburgh in the 2005 playoffs. Under Lewis, the Bengals have been outscored 132-64 in the postseason.

JUST ASKING BUT ...

--Can we just cut to what we all want now -- Manning-Brady XV?

--Who wins a playoff game first -- Cincinnati or Kansas City?

--Any chance of sending that green Gatorade to Seattle now?

--Which redhead had the worse weekend -- Andy Reid or Andy Dalton?

--Which defense do you trust more -- the 49ers' or Carolina?

NUMBERS THAT MAY MEAN SOMETHING

--1-5 -- Andy Reid vs. Indianapolis

--3 -- More playoff turnovers and another postseason one-and-done for Andy Dalton

--5 -- Combined penalties in the San Francisco-Green Bay game

--11 -- Andrew Luck fourth-quarter or OT comeback vicgtories

--12 -- Straight Philadelphia games without allowing an opening-drive point

--16 -- Philip Rivers' pass attempts at Cincinnati

--56 -- First downs in the Kansas City-Indianapolis pinball game

--196 -- San Diego yards rushing

--362 -- Colin Kaepernick career playoff rushing yardage

--2004 -- Last time Green Bay failed to have a first-quarter completion

--Clark Judge, a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange, has covered pro football since 1982 and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.
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