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NFL playoffs: 5 questions and predictions for championship weekend

- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2014

NFL CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND

1. Will the Patriots tilt toward their running game?

New England has relied upon Tom Brady's arm for years, but as the Patriots demonstrated late in the season, they're not afraid to rest on LeGarrette Blount's legs. The running back, acquired via trade in April, has solidified a running attack that finished ninth in the league this season.

2. What does Chris Harris' knee injury mean for the Broncos?

Denver already had one of the league's worst pass defenses, but the loss of Harris, a cornerback, to a torn ACL in his left knee last week in a victory over the San Diego Chargers only makes the Broncos more porous. Veteran Champ Bailey will likely see an expanded role, but at 35, there's a reason his responsibilities had been reduced.

3. How crucial is Russell Wilson to the Seahawks' success?

Wilson will need to score points for the Seahawks if they hope to have any chance of winning. He was mediocre last weekend in a victory over the New Orleans Saints when he completed nine of 18 passes for 103 yards and rushed three times for 18 yards.

4. Is the 49ers' defense overshadowed by their offense?

In a word, greatly. San Francisco has shut out its opponent for 35 quarters this season, including three of four quarters in a victory over the Carolina Panthers last season. But the unit may be overshadowed by its counterpart; Seattle had the league's best total defense and passing defense this season.

5. Will this be one of the more intriguing Super Bowls in some time?

Regardless of who wins the game, Super Bowl XLVIII will match two exciting offenses and have that coveted young quarterback vs. old quarterback storyline. The anticipation of that game will have been unmatched in recent years.

Predictions

Seattle 21, San Francisco 20
Denver 29, New England 27

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