Last weekend’s wild card round was exactly that, WILD. Today’s two road teams earned huge wins at home last weekend. The Saints used an offensively electric second half, in which they punted as many times as Andray Blatche has turned down the question “Would you like to Super Size that sir?” The Denver Broncos wrote another chapter in the Book of Tebow as they won an emotionally uplifting game in overtime.
The two games today have very interesting lines, and by interesting we mean VERY HARD to pick. Each game could go either way (like a drunken Lindsey Lohan) and today’s games are so close to call. We will try our best to get the games right, but predicting the outcomes of today’s games correctly will be like trying to convert Tim Tebow to Islam.
As always, the home team is in CAPS.
Saints(-3.5) @ 49ERS
Today’s weather in San Francisco is 60-65 degrees, with 0% chance of precipitation and 4 MPH winds. In other words, California weather kicks ass.
The Saints have to fly across the country, play on grass, outdoors, in a road stadium vs. a 2 seed. 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh probably loves this, his team --who is a 2 seed at home-- is an underdog and everyone is writing them off, and if you think Jim Harbaugh hasn’t been walking around the 49ers complex all week preaching this, then you are crazy.
The 49ers have one of the best run defenses in the league (gave up an average of 77 yards per game), while the Saints ran the ball at will last week vs. Detroit. Our main man, “Simple” (give him a follow @mcaulejp) just dropped a big time stat on us. Simple just told us that the Saints are 1-3 in games in when they average less than 4 yards per carry and the 49ers give up an average of 3.5 yards per carry. This is where the rubber meets the road, folks.
The Saints were 5-3 on the road (4-2 outdoors, 1-1 in Domes). Everyone has said “get the Saints outdoors on the road and they will not be as effective.” Well on the road they were quite the opposite as they had a good outdoor road record. In fact, one of those losses was at Tampa Bay when their head coach/play caller broke his leg on the sidelines and could not make the play calls for the rest of the game. Sorry folks, but that was a big deal in that particular game. Sean Payton has orchestrated one of the most dynamic offensive attacks in the entire league, but after the Tampa Bay game, he turned over play-calling to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and the Saints have not missed a beat.
So what this game breaks down to is how will the Saints offense do against the fantastic 49ers defense, and how will Alex Smith handle the Gregg Williams eccentric blitz packages? The common knock on the 49ers today is that Alex Smith will not be able to keep up with Drew Brees (which is absolutely true), but the 49ers defense will keep the game closer than most expect. This game hinges on the 49ers defense and how effectively they can keep the Saints in check, specifically in the run game. We expect them to do this most of the game, but at the end of the day the Boys from the Bayou will advance to the NFC Championship.
Pick: Saints 24-17. Saints -3.5
|How's the gumbo treatin' ya Gregg?|
Broncos (+13.5) @ PATRIOTS
These two teams played one month ago in Denver and the Patriots dominated the Broncos 41-23. However, what most people forget about this game is that the Broncos were gashing the Patriots defense early and often with a ground and pound gameplan that made Rex Ryan blush. In fact the only thing that would have made old Rexy blush more would have been if the Broncos did it without their shoes on. But a las, the Broncos started getting careless with the football and began fumbling in their own zone. The Patriots are too good of a team offensively to not cash in on those gifts and that is why the Pats put up points and ran away in the first meeting.
However, this was before John Elway gave Timmy Touchdown the “pull the trigger” speech. Well folks, Tim Tebow did not just pull the trigger, he John Wilkes Boothed the crap out of the Steelers secondary. Tebow and Demaryius Thomas put on an aerial show vs. Pittsburgh and most of this was done without Eric Decker who is out for the rest of the playoffs with a knee injury.
Thanks to guys like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, Tom Brady has very quietly had another dominant season, 5235 yards, 39 Touchdowns, and 12 INT’s. Rob Gronkowski has emerged as the BEST tight end in the league bar none. In fact he has exploded onto the NFL scene like…we were going to do a BiBi Jones joke there but that’s just too easy.
The Patriots offense is pretty close to unstoppable, so the Broncos defense has a major test on their hands today. The Broncos will have to control the clock by utilizing their effective run game and keep that Patriots offense off the field.
It’s been well documented that Tebow threw for 316 yards against a very stingy Pittsburgh defense, so whose to say he can’t do something similar against a Patriots secondary who gave an average of 293 yards per game?
We expect the Broncos D to keep this game a little tighter than the first matchup, but the more experienced, poised, and resilient Patriots will pull away from this game late, but not enough to cover.
Plus who wants to bet against Tebow???
Pick: Patriots 31-19. Broncos +13.5
|Brady Quinn took the Pats -13.5.|
Last Week 4-1
Playoffs Overall 4-1