Saints vs. 49ers - Saints - These two teams are an extreme contrast in styles offensively. One team is a smash mouth team that believes in running the football and playing hard-nosed defense. The other likes to throw the ball all over the field and light up the score board. So far this season both of those styles have worked well enough for both teams to garner a 13-3 record, and cause each to collide in this clash of styles, to determine which one works best.
The Saints arrive in San Francisco on a nine game winning streak, and QB Drew Brees appears to be near unstoppable. The Saints have been here before, having already won a Super Bowl, so the experience advantage goes to them. The Niners are the home team, so that is their advantage, but for a team not used to winning in the playoffs, home field advantage is not really an advantage at all.
We saw last season how the Atlanta Falcons were destroyed on their home field by a Green Bay Packers team that had hit a hot streak, and never got off of it. The same may be the case for the Saints. But that’s why they play these games, to find out what the truth really is. One week doesn’t guarantee anything to the next.
The 49ers have an advantage in pass rushers as well, and they will need them in order to attack Drew Brees in multiple ways. They need to shake up Brees, and get as many hits on him as possible. If Brees has too much time in the pocket, this will end in a blow out. The Niners need to use Frank Gore to possess the ball, and control time of possession limiting the opportunities the Saints have to score.
The 49ers need to turn this game into a quagmire, and keep the score close enough so that at the end, they have a chance to steal it. If the 49ers get drawn into a shoot out, they will be shot down quickly. They need to do the things that got them to this point, only they need to do them better than they have before. It will also be fun to watch these two coaches match wits.
But when it’s all said and done, I don’t think the 49ers have enough fire power to hold down the Saints for long. It will be close for a good portion of the game, but the Saints will do enough at the end to pull out the victory.
Saints - 31
49ers - 20
Broncos vs. Patriots - Patriots - The first time these teams played I knew the Patriots had to get out to an early lead. Primarily because the Broncos simply don’t have the offense to stay with the Patriots, and just as the Saints vs. the 49ers are a contrast in styles, these two teams are even more so.
Tom Brady may have the best throwing motion in the game. His mechanics are near perfect, and his accuracy is uncanny. Where as Tim Tebow, a wind up throwing motion, poor passing mechanics, and a can’t hit the side of a barn accuracy. But those are the differences, the fact is these QB’s have a lot of things in common. Both are great leaders, and both have a knack for being able to bring their teams back from certain defeat to victory.
Sometimes in football it’s not necessarily about who does the most to win, but about who did the most to lose. If you limit mistakes (penalties, turnovers), and you can control time of possession, odds are you will win. That’s the logic behind the game. But there are so many things about Tim Tebow that defies logic. In my mind, I can’t quite grasp that the Broncos can win this game. But at the same time it wouldn’t surprise me if they did.
Is god smiling down on Tim Tebow? Maybe, maybe Not. But clearly there is something about him that enables him to rise above all the criticism and perform at the highest level when the game is on the line. The Pittsburgh Steelers underestimated Tim Tebow, but I can’t see Bill Belichick and the Patriots making that same mistake.
The Broncos pass rushers, Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller have to find a way to get consistent pressure on Tom Brady. If they don’t, Brady will pick their defense apart. Tim Tebow has to take care of the football and Limit his turnovers. The more time the Broncos can keep the ball away from Tom Brady, the better chance they have to win.
But the reality of all of this is the NFL is now and may be from here on out a league built on offense. The Broncos and Tebow will fight hard, but they just don’t have the weapons to keep up with the Patriots. The Patriots will advance to the Conference Championship.
Broncos - 13
Patriots - 24
Texans vs. Ravens - Ravens - I had a feeling that Arian Foster would have a big game last week against the Bengals. Foster is one of those players who thrives when people doubt him. But the problem is, no one will be doubting him on Sunday, especially the Ravens. Foster is the engine that drives the Texans forward. As he goes, they go.
The same can be said for the Raven’s Ray Rice, who has been the offensive catalyst for the Ravens all season. This will be an entertaining matchup of two of the best Running backs in the NFL. This game may be decided based on which Running Back can perform the best. The power and skill of Foster vs. the quickness and heart of Rice.
Joe Flacco has been inconsistent this season, but this game gives him an opportunity to silence his critics. Flacco should give the Ravens a decided advantage at QB, over T.J. Yates for the Texans. Yates played admirably for the Texans against the Bengals, and made plays when he had to. But the Ravens defense is just that much more talented than the Bengals, and Yates will have his hands full throwing the football, which is why Foster will be so important.
The ability to run play action is essential for Yates, as he’s going to need the extra time the fake provides to find the open receiver. He won’t have too much time however, with Terrell Suggs coming after him on passing plays. And you forget about Ray Lewis, who always seems to come up big in big games, whether it be a forced fumble or an interception.
Joe Flacco doesn’t think he’s gotten the credit he deserves as the QB of the Ravens. Well, if he can play a great game against a good Texans defense, then opinions about him will begin to change. John Harbaugh seems to have the Ravens positioned right where they need to be, and after years of coming close, he has a chance to take himself and his players to the next level.
This game will be a defensive struggle, fought for and won in the trenches. The Ravens have the better QB, and the better pass rushers, so this tells me they will win the game.
Texans - 17
Ravens - 20
Giants vs. Packers - Packers - The Giants enter this game on a wave of confidence. Much like the Packers from last season, the Giants are playing their best football when it matters the most. Eli Manning is playing the best football of his career, and Tom Coughlin seems to have been pushing all the right buttons at the end of the season. Unlike the Giants, who made the playoffs on the last game, the Packers seem to have been waiting for this game for a while, having sowed up their division weeks ago.
They’ve been the run away favorites to win the Super Bowl since the season started, and now for them the wait is finally over. But something is different this season from the Packers last year. The Packers have gone from being the hunter to the being the hunted. Aaron Rodgers is now recognized as the best player in the game, and no longer the guy trying to live up to Bret Favre’s Legend.
Last season Aaron Rodgers had that chip on his shoulder, but is that chip still weighing down on him? Eli Manning has had a chip on his shoulder his whole life. Imagine being Peyton Manning’s little brother and trying to live up to that legend. But with Peyton out injured Eli’s skills have now risen to the forefront. This is Eli’s time to shine, and he’s certainly making the most of it.
The offenses will shine brightly in this game because even though good pass rushers reside on both teams, I don’t think it will matter much. This game is a matchup of two QB’s who are at the heights of their powers, and I doubt either one will actually be beaten, but one will simply run out of time. Back and forth they will go, and where it ends….I think I know. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers move on.
Giants - 31
Packers - 35
Wild Card Week Review - I went 1-3 for the week. Being from Atlanta, I wanted the Falcons to win, even though deep within, I knew they probably wouldn’t. I also didn’t mind seeing Tim Tebow play so well and lead the Broncos to victory, even though I picked against them.
Year to Date: 145-77, which is 65% correct.