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NFL preview capsules — Divisional playoffs

49ers at Panthers

Time: 1:05 p.m. today.

Line: Pick ’em.

The skinny: As the real-estate saying goes, it’s all about location, location, location. To me, when it comes to sports, it’s all about timing, timing, timing. When the 49ers lost at home, 10-9, to Carolina on Nov. 10, they were without receiver Michael Crabtree (injured Achilles). He was back to his old form with eight catches for 125 yards in last weekend’s win at Green Bay. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is also surrounded by the talents of receiver Anquan Boldin, tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore. I think the Panthers’ defense — one of the best this season — will have its hands full. The 49ers have won seven in a row and the Panthers are 11-1 in their past 12 games. I’ll take the more experienced 49ers to make their third consecutive NFC title game, 21-16.

The pick: 49ers.

Chargers at Broncos

Time: 4:40 p.m. today.

Line: Broncos by 9½.

The skinny: Peyton Manning set or tied six individual NFL single-season records, and Denver set or tied six regular-season NFL marks on offense. Still, the only number that matters to Manning’s detractors is his career 9-11 playoff record, including eight one-and-done postseasons. The only visiting team to win in Denver this season was San Diego. First-year coach Mike McCoy was Denver’s offensive coordinator for four seasons. The Chargers led the NFL in time of possession and third-down efficiency. That sounds like a good formula to keep Manning & Co. on the sidelines for long stretches. Even with all that, Denver has too many offensive weapons — plus, the reminder of last year’s shocking loss to the Ravens — not to make the AFC title game. Denver advances, 31-27.

The pick: Chargers.

— John Boell, Newsday


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