- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It’s hardly a stretch to conjure up four road victories in the wild-card round of the playoffs. The Saints are hefty favorites at Seattle, which is the first division winner with a losing record in, well, forever.

Green Bay already has won at Philadelphia, in the season opener. Baltimore (12-4) also is a road favorite at Kansas City (10-6). And the New York Jets (11-5) have a better record than Indianapolis (10-6).

Picking a sweep by the lower-seeded teams isn’t as gutsy as it might be in previous years. Still, we don’t quite have the guts to do that.

New Orleans (minus 10) at Seattle, Saturday

The only mismatch of opening weekend, and a reason there will be strong offseason talk about revamping the playoffs so an 11-5 team doesn’t have to travel more than halfway across the country to face a 7-9 club.

New Orleans romped past Seattle 34-19 in November and the Saints have improved since then. The Seahawks have not.

Sure, Pete Carroll’s crew should get a spark from the win-or-go-home performance last Sunday against St. Louis that gave it the NFC West crown. But the Seahawks not only have a questionable quarterbacking situation because of Matt Hasselbeck’s hip, they don’t match up in the back seven against the Saints’ formidable passing game, particularly in the secondary.

New Orleans is getting healthy at the right time, although RB Pierre Thomas going on injured reserve (left ankle) is worrisome. Facing the Seahawks should not be.


Green Bay (plus 2 1/2) at Philadelphia, Sunday

Way back in September, when weather concerns were about heat and humidity, not ice and wind _ and Kevin Kolb was Philadelphia’s starting quarterback _ the Packers won 27-20 at the Linc.

Green Bay has had a roller coaster season in which 15 players went on injured reserve, including two primary options on offense, TE Jermichael Finley and RB Ryan Grant, and six key defenders.

QB Aaron Rodgers is healthy now after a late-season concussion, and eager to take advantage of Philly’s mediocre linebacking and to test the Eagles’ secondary with deep throws to Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones.

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