The mornings after NFL games are about one of two things: the hero or the goat. If your guys won, the water cooler talk is centered around the player(s) or coach who most believe was the biggest factor in the team's success.
If your team lost, angry fans will bash the man everyone says "cost us" the game.
We're here to predict who will be the subject of the latter conversation in four cities on Monday morning.
Sean Payton Can't Solve the Seahawks and CenturyLink Field
The Seattle Seahawks seem to own the New Orleans Saints in Seattle in recent years. We all know about the huge win during the 2011 playoffs when Marshawn Lynch's "Beast Mode" run helped lead Seattle to the upset win.
Earlier this season, the Seahawks proved they still hold sway over the Saints in Seattle. A 34-7 rout in Week 13 of the regular season can't have Saints fans too enthused about what's in store for the team on Saturday afternoon.
In that loss, Sean Payton's vaunted offense was held to a season low in points, first downs, passing yards and total yards.
On Saturday, the Seahawks' defense will again set the pace for the matchup. Seattle's secondary is so big, physical and athletic, it will make it hard for Saints receivers to get separation. Per NFL Around the League, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman called out Saints quarterback Drew Brees:
He's not alone, Richard.
Payton's inability to find an answer to the Seattle defense will make him the recipient of blame for the Saints' latest failure at CenturyLink Field.
Melvin White and Captain Munnerlyn are Going to Get Torched By Michael Crabtree
No matter who the Carolina Panthers put on Michael Crabtree, he's going to shred them. Perhaps the only weakness the Panthers have on defense is at cornerback.
While Captain Munnerlyn is a serious competitor, he's only 5'8". Crabtree will be able to outmuscle him and make receptions above his head.
Melvin White matches up better from a physical standpoint, but the rookie lacks the experience necessary to rise to the occasion in the postseason against an elite receiver.
Make no mistake, Crabtree is elite.
He proved it against the Green Bay Packers on Wild Card Weekend in sub-zero temperatures. Crabtree lit the Packers up for eight catches and 125 yards. He may not have a day that big against Carolina, but his presence and key first downs will be the difference against the Panthers.
Dylan DeSimone of Bleacher Report keeps it plain:
On Monday morning, Panthers fans will be talking about upgrading their talented young team with better cornerbacks.
Colts' Run Defense Won't Stop the Patriots' Ground Game
The New England Patriots have transformed themselves into a dominant run team. Over the final four weeks of the season, their rushing yardage has risen and the passing yards have decreased. Because of the injuries and player absences affecting the passing game, this is a smart change of direction for the team.
Run defense just happens to be the weakest area of the Indianapolis Colts' squad.
Indy was ranked 26th in the NFL against the run, and it allowed 150 yards on the ground against the Kansas City Chiefs during the Wild Card Round. LeGarrette Blount and the Patriots' big and nasty offensive line will control this game.
When it's over, all the fingers will be pointed at Indianapolis' inability to stop the run.
Peyton Manning Will Face More Questions About His Ability to Win in the Playoffs
Never mind the fact that Peyton Manning's offense is almost certain to score at least 24 points; critics will take shots at Manning for another one-and-done playoff performance.
The San Diego Chargers have the formula required to hand Manning and the Denver Broncos another loss at Sports Authority Field. The 'Bolts beat the Broncos 27-20 in Denver in Week 15.
In Week 10, the Chargers lost 28-20, but in both games, San Diego dominated time of possession. In the two games combined, the Chargers have held the ball 33-plus minutes longer than Denver.
San Diego kept Manning and the Denver offense on the sidelines most of the game.
Limiting Denver's opportunities puts enormous pressure on them to convert almost every time its on the field. Also, without Von Miller, the Broncos' star linebacker who is done for the year, the Denver defense doesn't have the playmakers in the front seven to stop the Chargers' run game.
This will be a team win for San Diego and vice versa for the Broncos, if they win. However, at the end of the day, Manning will take most of the blame for Denver's loss.
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