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Tom Sorensen’s picks: Michael Crabtree not enough for 49ers

Last week I picked the four favorites. That’s safe, and if you’re safe in prognosticating, and many other things, you probably lack the confidence to take chances.

If I had been Riverboat Tom, I’d have to change my name. If I stay on this path, I’ll trade in my convertible and buy a van. And if I have any more kids, I’ll name them Aiden, Ethan, Sophia and – what else is trendy? – Zoe.

Last week: 2-2

Regular season and playoffs: 170-90

Lock of the week: Picked Indianapolis to cover against Kansas City. By kickoff, the line was down to (-1). But when I made the pick it was -2 1/2. So I lost.

Season: 10-8-1

This week’s picks, with the home team in CAPS.

New Orleans 27, SEATTLE 23

The only things the Seahawks have going for them: a secondary that beats up receivers, a defensive line that gets to the quarterback; the return of playmaker Percy Harvin; five straight playoff victories at home; a 27-point victory when the teams last played at CenturyLink Stadium.

But New Orleans knows what it’s like to play in Seattle. They now know what it’s like to win a playoff game on the road. Drew Brees was merely good enough against Philadelphia last week, passing for 250 yards and a touchdown and throwing two interceptions.

That won’t cut it against the Seahawks. For the Saints to win Brees will have to be outstanding. I’m gambling that he will be.

I don’t even like to ride in a van.

NEW ENGLAND 34, Indianapolis 31

Tom Brady is 6-1 in divisional games. But the New England offense relies on Brady less than it customarily does. The Patriots had the ninth best rushing attack in the NFL, and the Colts are 26th against the run. If last minute heroics are required, I’ll pick Brady to deliver them.

DENVER 35, San Diego 23

The Broncos were upset in the divisional round last season by Baltimore, and they won’t let it happen again. While John Fox will never be Riverboat John, he’ll give Manning every opportunity to play Broncos ball, and that will be enough.

CAROLINA 24, San Francisco 23

San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree did not play when the 49ers and Panthers last did. Since then he apparently has become the Greatest Receiver in the NFL.

I wrote this column in a coffee shop and one table away a sales rep and a guy I took to be her regional manager talked about Crabtree. They talked about Crabtree more than NFL prognosticators talk about Crabtree. This was supposed to be a business meeting – they had laptops and calculators and legal-sized yellow pads. And they talked for 30 minutes about Crabtree.

OK, so I eventually realized they were talking about Raleigh’s Crabtree Valley Mall.

But if it had been Ginn Jr. Valley Mall or LaFell Valley Mall or Smith Valley Mall would they have invested 30 minutes?

I think you know the answer.

I realize that with Crabtree the 49ers are have improved since the Panthers beat them in November.

But if Steve Smith is healthy the Panthers also have improved, as defensive end Greg Hardy will attest.

Carolina’s specialty is winning close. The margin in five of their last seven victories has been 1, 4, 4, 4 and 1 points.

If it’s close, they expect to win. They’ve earned that.

Sorensen: 704-358-5119; Twitter: @tomsorensen
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