3-1, New Orleans, New York and Denver, not bad for the wild card round. I still think that number should be 4-0, Cincinnati was quite a let down in Houston. Can’t win them all, all of the time I guess. Last weeks wins have led to great match ups for the divisional round and below are my picks.
Saturday @ 4:30 PM New Orleans vs San Francisco:
This is the classic match up of offense vs defense. New Orleans put up 626 yards and 45 points last week against Detroit. But those numbers should come as no surprise, New Orleans had the number one ranked offense in the regular season and the Lions allowed Matt Flynn, back quarterback of the Packers, to throw for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns in week 17. That being said, San Francisco is a much different defense and will be a lot harder to contend with. The 49ers ranked 4th in the regular season and only gave up 14.3 points a game second to only Pittsburgh who gave up 14.2. The deciding factor for my decision this week is the fact that of the top 11 defense’s the one thing the 49ers give up more then the others is passing yards. San Francisco gives up 230.9 yards a game, the next closest team in the top 11 defenses is Seattle at 219.9 a game. The one thing the Saints do and do very well is throw the football, the one thing the 49ers do not defend that well against is the pass. The Saints have the edge in experience and offense and I think both factors outweigh San Francisco’s defense and home field advantage, Saints win 27-17.
Saturday @ 8:00 PM Denver vs New England:
Denver had the win of the week last week and maybe the win of the playoffs. Everything fell into place for them, the Steelers were banged up and the Bronco’s playing at Mile High are always difficult. This week Denver has to go on the road and into Foxboro, so the home field advantage is gone and New England is not as banged up as Pittsburgh was last week. This isn’t the classic offense vs defense match up people may think. Denver’s defense is good, but it ranked 20th in the league this season. Denver does run the ball and can control the clock against a very poor New England defense thank ranked 17th against the run allowing 117.1 a game. However, Tom Brady and the New England offense doesn’t need that much time to do damage and if Denver falls behind early, they are not built to overcome large defects. The Patriots have to much experience and home field advantage, the season of Tebow will end in non-dramatic fashion, Patriots 31 Denver 21.
Sunday 1:00 PM Houston vs Baltimore:
Houston’s defense and running game did what it needed to do to win last week against the Bengals. Foster’s 153 yards and two touchdowns carried the Houston offense while J.J. Watt made the play of the game, scoring a defensive touchdown with under a minute to go in the second quarter that turned a 10-10 ball game into a Houston 17-10 lead. That play basically ended the Bengals season; they were just too young to overcome a huge mistake. Both the Bengals and the Ravens do two things very well, run the ball and play defense. Houston was second in the league in total defense while Baltimore was third. The Texans were also second in the league in rushing offense, averaging 153 yards a game and Baltimore was tenth, averaging 124.8. Here’s the kicker, the Ravens ranked second in the league in rushing defense allowing 92.6 yards a game and the Texans ranked fourth allowing 96.0 yards a game. These teams are so evenly matched that the only factors I can take into account are experience, coaching and home field advantage. In all three of those categories the Ravens win out, Ravens 17 Texans 16.
Sunday @ 4:30 PM New York Giants vs Green Bay:
The Giants put on a clinic last week against a good Falcons team. They were balanced with both the run and the pass and the G-Men’s front four may have had their best game of the season. The Giants are the team this post-season that has gotten hot and that no-one wants to play. Green Bay has a few factors to contend with this week: Off the field this week’s tragic death of Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin’s son Michael Philbin will have him and the Packers dealing with something that no-one can be or should have to be prepared to deal with. This tragedy can cause the Packers players to fall on one of two sides, 1) they could come out and play the game of their lives as did Brett Favre when his father passed away a few years back or, 2) the family tragedy could just be to much to overcome and could easily take it’s toll on the entire team. With that being said there are a few football related factors as well. The Packers ranked 3rd in offense this season while the Giants ranked 8th. Both teams had a poor defense in the regular season, the Packers were last in the league while the Giants only ranked 27th. So, again both teams seem to be evenly matched. I have to say that my decision has been based on two factors, 1) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hasn’t played a game since week 16 and may be feeling better physically but could also be rusty, 2) the unimaginable death of a child, no matter how old is just too much for the Packers to overcome. Giants 34 Green Bay 31.
Last week’s 3-1 record could easily turn to 1-3 or worse 0-4 this week. Every team left could win for any number of reasons and lose for the same number. There are evenly matched teams that both do the same things well and there are teams with great offense vs great defense. This is why we love the NFL and especially the NFL playoffs. If you can’t get excited for this weekend of football then you may want to check your fan card and see if it still works.