San Francisco at Carolina 12:05 p.m. FOX
Some West Coast teams traveling east have struggled with time changes to the point of making their trips on Fridays rather than the traditional Saturdays. San Francisco was 6-2 on the road this year, and showed its mettle last weekend with the win in frigid Green Bay.
This is an intriguing matchup of two teams coached by former Bears players, the one from the defensive side coaching an elite defense in Carolina (Ron Rivera), the one from an offensive tradition bringing in a balanced offense that won its last six games in a row, scoring 23 or more in five of them.
The tipping point, however, is that the 49ers’ four losses came against top-five scoring defenses (Seattle, Carolina, Indianapolis, New Orleans). This won’t be as points-lite as the in-season 10-9 Panthers win at San Francisco, but Rivera’s defense got after Colin Kaepernick then and it will again.
Panthers: 20, 49ers: 14
San Diego at Denver 3:40 p.m. CBS
Last year’s postseason was supposed to be a coronation for Peyton Manning that was ruined by the Baltimore Ravens and one epic defensive breakdown in the style of Chris Conte vs. Green Bay. And while San Diego barely met the playoff entry requirements with help from other teams’ stumbles, only the New England Patriots have intercepted Manning more times (24) than the Chargers (19), and San Diego has managed their pick total in 11 games compared to New England’s 20 against him.
The Chargers split with the Broncos this season, winning at Denver in Game 14, the only game the Denver offense was held below than 397 yards (295) and 27 points (20) all season.
San Diego reached this round with an inept quarterback performance from Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. Manning will not be so accommodating.
Broncos 30, Chargers 17