Saturday, 4:35 PM (ET) New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
Some basic facts: The Saints (the black and gold team) are fresh off their first road playoff win in franchise history! Now they have to do it again against the top seeded Seahawks (the blue and neon-y team), who thrashed them a couple months ago by 27 points, in a stadium considered by many to be the toughest place to play in professional football, as it’s really loud. In fact, during a gigantic scoring play against this same Saints team several years ago, the stadium’s deafening roar actually registered on the Richter scale. That’s right, their yells can match a mini-earthquake.
The 12th Man: There are 11 players on a football team. Seattle deemed their stadium’s attendees the 12th man because of the insane noise they make. Many attribute this as the reason the Seahawks have only lost one home game since Week 16 of the 2011 season.*
Beast Mode: The phrase you will hear should Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch have any significant or particularly bruising runs. The key to beast mode? Skittles. Lynch has been eating them during football games since high school.
Who ‘Dat? Essentially, the Saints’ battle cry. It is used in pep talks and fan chants. If you can hear this chant in the stadium at any time, the game is likely not going the way most are picking it.
Key commentary to make yourself seem knowledgeable: “BEAST MODE!” Make sure to throw Skittles everywhere. (For use when Marshawn Lynch scores a touchdown.)
*Many argue Seattle has lost two games in this span, the other to the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football (2012, Week 3).
Bonus related material: “Fail Mary,” “Inaccurate Reception.”
Saturday, 8:15 PM (ET) Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
Some Basic facts: The Colts (the white team) are still in the playoffs thanks to a remarkable comeback victory led by quarterback Andrew Luck, the third largest in postseason history. The Patriots (the navy team) had an interesting season, boasting few household-name players, but still winning enough games to get the second seed (read: position that lets you skip the first weekend of games). Look to see if Indianapolis can pull out another win against one of their long-time playoff opponents.
Tom Brady: The quarterback for the Patriots. Loved by many a girl, reviled by many a Jets fan. The man has won three Super Bowls, married a supermodel, and wears very entertaining sweaters at his press conferences. He wins games.
Chuck Pagano: The Indianapolis coach, and one of the more inspiring figures featured in the weekend’s games. He was diagnosed with leukemia in the 2012 season, took a leave of absence, conquered cancer, and came back to coach the end of the season and a playoff game. With a full year under his belt, he plans on taking the Colts deeper in the playoff race.
T. Y. Hilton: On a weekend when everyone talked about Andrew Luck’s talent, the wide receiver was simply minding his own business, catching game winning passes, and breaking the Colts playoff receiving yard record (224 yards in one game). This weekend, look for him to further impress, scoring another touchdown, recording a hip hop video, and furthering research on the higgs boson.
Key commentary to make yourself seem knowledgeable: “The Patriots should be careful with how they handle Hilton after the game he had last week.”
Sunday, 1:05 PM (ET) San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
Some Basic Facts: The 49ers (the red and white team) turn their attention to the Panthers (the black and blue team), who shocked all by handing them a loss at home. But payback might not be so easy. After starting 1-3, the Panthers went 11-1, beating three of the other seven teams playing this weekend in the process. This is a battle of quarterbacks that run the ball and top-ranked defenses.
Cam Newton: The Panthers quarterback, known to fans as Super Cam because of his trademark fake-rip-open-shirt-to-reveal-superman-logo routine, along with some feats of ridiculous athleticism. He came back from a sophomore slump to lead the Panthers to their first playoff game with him at the controls.
Playoff experience: Both Newton and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick were drafted in the same year, but while this is Newton’s first playoff game, it’s Kaepernick’s fifth. Sometimes that makes a big difference. Other times it means nothing. All of the time, it’s something analysts love talking about.
#QuestForSix: The Bay Area’s dominant hashtag for the rest of the post season. Should San Francisco win out and hoist the Lombardi (the Super Bowl trophy), it will be the franchise’s 6th Super Bowl victory, tied with the Steelers for most in the league.
Key commentary to make yourself seem knowledgeable: “The playoffs are a tier up from the regular season. Can Carolina win as a team with barely any playoff experience?”
Sunday, 4:40 PM (ET) San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
Some Basic Facts: Most have the Broncos (the orange team) going to the Super Bowl as a runaway pick. But the Chargers (the blue and white team) present an interesting matchup. They are 6-2 in Denver in recent games, and beat the Broncos about a month ago at home. This is also Denver’s chance to atone for last season, where they lost a heartbreaker to the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens.
The Bolo Tie: Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers is undefeated when wearing a bolo tie on the road this year. Cincinnati took this lightly, and they are watching from the couch this weekend. Fear the bolo tie.
Peyton Manning: The Broncos quarterback is on his way to owning many of the NFL’s passing records, but only has one Super Bowl ring to show for it. Tom Brady, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlesberger, and even little brother Eli Manning of the New York Giants all have #swag for at least two fingers. The great quarterbacks are judged by success in the playoffs, and that’s what Manning must have this year.
Mile High Stadium: Suddenly an appropriately-named venue for Colorado’s football team, it is much higher in altitude compared to other stadiums, making a sizeable difference in quality of play. The lack of air density actually makes it harder to breathe and lets field goal attempts and kickoffs go further. Some players have actually used hypobaric chambers to prepare for the atmosphere.
Key commentary to make yourself seem knowledgeable: “Does Peyton Manning have more or less than three touchdowns?” (For use only if the Broncos are winning by a large margin.)