So 3 out of 4 ain’t bad right? Houston and Cincinnati was closer than expected, until a big defensive play turned the tide (see previous post on defenses). Meanwhile, New Orleans and Detroit was as advertised – all offense, no defense and too much Saints. On Sunday, Atlanta imploded. No playoff team should only score 2 points. Even the 2000 Ravens, a historically bad offensive team, scored 12 regularly. Being shut out like that was embarrassing and looks to have shaken up the structure in Atlanta. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mike Smith is on the hot seat next season.
And then we come to Tebow. Let’s face facts. The Tebow that showed up last Sunday had never played in an NFL game. That Tebow was poised, calm in the pocket. He kept his eyes down field, and manipulated the defense. Now Pittsburgh gave him single coverage most of the night, and the last play of the game featured a safety grossly over playing a run formation, but Tebow was an NFL quarterback last Sunday and Pittsburgh never saw that coming.
New Orleans Saints vs San Francisco 49ers
This is a tough pick for me. The Saints are playing the best football of any team currently. They’re an unbeatable indoors team, but this is an outdoors game. It’s not cold. It’s not windy. It’s not anything that sounds menacing to a spread attack team like the Saints, but they simply do not put up as good of numbers outdoors. San Francisco brings a top defense and a power house running game – the exact formula most often utilized to beat the Saints. This game will come down to two factors that are interrelated. How the Saints defense plays, and how Alex Smith plays. If Alex Smith can put up 25 points, that will be enough. If he can’t, then the Saints will likely have enough juice to get by.
New Orleans 24 – San Francisco 20
Denver Broncos vs New England Patriots
Please let this Tebow thing end! The number of radio broadcasts that are finding biblical references to Tebow’s performance is becoming nauseating. I believe I’m in the majority when I say that if God wanted to make his presence felt it wouldn’t involve having Tebow beat the Steelers. But maybe I’m wrong. In any case, this game is a lot closer than people realize. The Patriots were torched early by this Denver rushing attack, but defensively they couldn’t stop Brady. If the Broncos can hold up better against this aggressive attack, and avoid turnovers, they can sneak a win here in true Tebow fashion. I think it would be fascinating to see what New England media would do if Belichick lost another one at home in the playoffs. Here’s my bold prediction for the week.
Denver 29 – New England 28
Houston Texans vs Baltimore Ravens
In the same way that the Saints are very, very good in a dome and at home, the Ravens are very very good at home and in the cold. The Texans bring a rookie quarterback, vaunted rushing attack, and a nearly unstoppable receiver in Andre Johnson. Still, the Ravens are hungry (not the Tampa Bay type though). The Ravens also have a tendency to overlook players, but I believe that to be a regular season thing. More traditionally, they become conservative in the playoffs and play not to lose. If they come out aggressive, and get Ray Rice moving early, this game won’t be close.
Baltimore 27 – Houston 17
New York Giants vs Green Bay Packers
This is another very interesting match-up. The Packers are banged up on the offensive line. They’re working with wounded tackles and have the NFL’s last ranked defense behind it. That would all spell doom, except that Aaron Rodgers is playing the greatest quarterback play in NFL history (yes I said it). On the other side, the New York Football Giants have a ferocious pass rush that only needs four to get it done. Their secondary has questions though, and their run defense is either hot or cold. Most recently they’re hot, but if Rodgers can get a balanced attack, he’ll tear through that secondary. Expect a lot of screens early to slow down JPP and Tuck, and follow it up with some deep strikes late. Finish it off with a couple Eli turnovers and we’ll see Green Bay in the NFC Championship game.
Green Bay 27 – New York 17