Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Your NFL Playoff Guide: Don't Jump on the Bandwagon Just Yet

The Saints and Giants looked nearly unbeatable in their wild card performances, and they have clearly bridged the gap between themselves and their divisional round opponents.  But many have decided, after Sunday's games, to jump on the bandwagons of these two teams, seemingly forgetting what we have seen from the 49ers and Packers all year long.  So, let's take a look at each divisional round matchup objectively, and try to get to the bottom of this mess.

New Orleans at San Francisco

This is a classic game of offense vs. defense.  New Orleans has looked like they've been playing Madden on Rookie in the last few weeks, while San Francisco hasn't turned the ball over in its last five games and boasts the premiere defense in the league.  Something's gotta give.  San Francisco's home-field advantage is going to be crucial, and they will be fired up as underdogs coming into the game.  New Orleans was bailed out a few times by Detroit's inability to make plays on defense.  There were several balls thrown that should've been intercepted, and San Francisco has had a knack for capitalizing on these mistakes all year.  Also, one has to take into account that New Orleans simply isn't the same team once they step foot outside of the Superdome.  If the 49ers can score early, they will win this game.  Look for Harbaugh to come out swinging against a weak New Orleans defense and the 49ers to capitalize on a few Saints' mistakes.

27-24 San Francisco

New York at Green Bay

This game is interesting, as we saw the same matchup just a few weeks ago in New York.  The Giants will be coming into this game with a lot of confidence, after beating up on the Falcons, but I'm not sure how much credit one can give them.  Certainly, keeping them out of the endzone was a feat, but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who didn't think the Falcons were the weakest NFC team entering the playoffs.  Now, the Giants have to travel to Lambeau and play the Packers in an icy divisional matchup. I am expecting a good game for the first half, but I think the Packers will run away with this game in the second half, primarily due to their defense, which I expect to tighten up during the Playoffs.  Also, you can't underestimate two straight bye weeks, which have allowed the Packers to come into this game 100 percent healthy.  Give the Giants a lot of credit for having the audacity to "guarantee victory," but it's just not going to happen.  The comparisons to the 2007 Giants stop here.

31-17 Green Bay

Denver at New England

Denver played great on Sunday against the Steelers, and Tim Tebow, as usual, is the talk of every media outlet in the country.  These two teams faced off a few weeks ago in Denver, and the Patriots won pretty handily, although you could argue the game was closer than the score indicated.  Keep in mind, the Patriots have not beaten a team with a winning record this year, and they have not won a playoff game since their 18-1 season.  Also, the last time these two teams met in the playoffs was in 2005, and the Broncos won on a 100-yard interception return by Champ Bailey.  If that happens again, I am converting to Tebowism.  But as of now, I won't say that the Broncos will win this game, but the game will be close, and the Broncos will be right there in the 4th quarter.  Look for the Patriots to attack the sidelines just like the Steelers did, especially opposite Champ Bailey, and they will look to strike early, making Tebow play from behind.  If the Broncos can get out of the gates quickly, this is anybody's game.

28-21 New England

Houston at Baltimore

Baltimore is yet another team that is undefeated at home this year, and they have looked near unbeatable at M&T Bank Stadium.  But there is something about this Houston team that I saw during the game on Saturday, a supreme will to win.  This is Houston's first playoff appearance ever, and they are incredibly motivated and have a great defense.  Look for these two teams to slug it out on the ground, as both QB's are below-average, and it is really going to end up being anyone's game.  I'm looking for a young TJ Yates to play mistake-free football, while Arian Foster continues to run with power and confidence.  Don't expect Joe Flacco to throw for 300 yards this time, like he did in their previous meeting.  Whichever team can establish more of a running game to help out their questionable quarterback play will win this game, and something tells me that it's going to be the Texans.

20-16 Houston

No matter how these games sway over the weekend, football fans are in for a treat.  The beauty of these games: not a single one is a sure-fire bet.  But I can guarantee one thing--at least one of these games will end on a last-second field goal.

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