by Ryan Meehan
During Wild Card weekend, every 5 and 6 seed was eliminated, and every division winner moved on to the now very aptly named divisional playoff weekend. It’s left us with a team like the Texans, who haven’t been here yet. It’s left us with a matchup between two recent Super Bowl Champions in Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning. And It’s left us with an uberdramatic Saturday Night meeting between Tim Tebow and Tom Brady, which I’m sure will provide plenty of entertainment, ratings, or both. We’ll also get to see how the Saints will play outside, so let’s start there:
Bonus Fun Fact: The Saints have never won a road playoff game.
Bonus Fun Observation: Jabari Greer’s first name doesn’t win a lot of initial points with me.
The backstory: San Francisco has played some very impressive defensive football this year, but they’ve also had a little bit of help from a couple of things: First, you have the constantly mentioned fact that the NFC West is inexcusably poor with the exception of San Francisco. Although a tired argument, it’s also completely true. Then you figure the out of the other teams they played, they haven’t really been under a lot of pressure. The Pittsburgh game was cake because they knew Roethlisberger was banged up, and even though the power kept going out they were comfortable at home.
The Meat: The 49ers are 7-1 at home this season, but haven’t beaten the Saints since 2002. The Saints are 5-3 on the road this year, with one of those losses coming at the hands of the St. Louis Rams the day before Halloween, who hadn’t won a game up until that point. And if you consider the fact that they had to come from behind to beat Carolina on October 9th, they were a close shave from being .500 outside of the Superdome. Their five lowest-scoring games have all come on the road, and three of those five have been outside. (Which includes a loss to Tampa and I’m sure you know how I feel about them by this point) Although somewhat irrelevant at the moment, those facts are certainly a stark contrast to the elite team they are considered to be now.
The truth: The 49ers had a great year. They finally got over that proverbial hump, and although their defense is their strongpoint, they can be beaten and the line certainly suggests that’s the case. This will be the closest game of the weekend, but I don’t think it’ll be won on a last second play. I can see the Saints getting up early and then the Niners coming back only to fall short at the end in front of a very disappointed crowd that probably expected too much out of their football team to begin with.
Prediction: Saints 29, 49ers 27
Bonus Fun Fact: Tim Tebow believes in God.
The Meat: These two teams met in New England and the Pats beat the Broncos 41-23. Tebow is going to be affected more by the metal aspect of this whole overinflated ego thing but only if he keeps the TV off. If he can ignore the fact that all of the late night talk show guests are opening their monologues with Tebow-themed material…well, he’s still not going to win. In all reality the Broncos could give the Patriots a little bit of real trouble if they had a ton of offensive weapons, but they don’t and I’m still kind of clueless as to how they scored a total of 64 points in the last game, even after reading the box score. And I would say that the Broncos might have a chance to shut down Brady on offense, but for sixty minutes? And once again keep in mind this is that same team that gave up 40 to the Bills.
The Truth: I’m calling one of those lead pipe locks here and saying not only do the Patriots cover the spread, but I guarantee the Broncos and this year’s feel good story ends in Massachusetts on a cold Saturday night in January. The Patriots are so much better than the Broncos on offense for so many reasons. If the Broncos had half the explosiveness that the Pats have at tight end, they’d have gotten a bye and wouldn’t even have had to play last week. But, they don’t.
Prediction: Patriots 26, Broncos 17
Houston Texans (11-6) (+7.5) at Baltimore Ravens (13-3) 12:00PM CST (CBS)
Bonus Fun Fact: The Texans have never beaten the Ravens once. This includes all dreams and/or hallucinations I have had after the Giants lost Super Bowl XXXV to Baltimore.
The Meat: Two relatively new franchises when you consider their existence as opposed to the sports history in their towns. The most obvious thing to bring up here is: Really young QB facing a really veteran defensive setup. You’d expect Yates to get eaten alive. But remember the Ravens aren’t getting any younger on D. So really this is Joe Flacco’s day. We’ll really see if he can get away with a marginal win against a guy that we all know he’s better than, and do so without hurting himself or throwing for 400 yards. I want to see if he can pace himself and try to force the Texans to play the game the way the Ravens want it to be played, that’s what I’m looking for. But the Texans could make this interesting: The Ravens have had a couple of losses to AFC South opponents this season, and a little bit of Andre Johnson can go a long way. So can Houston pull off the upset?
The Truth: But seriously, yeah right. As cool of a story as it would be (and I still don’t think it’s really that cool) I don’t necessarily care that it has to happen. Flacco survives here and then next week gets nailed to a fencepost which I can’t explain at the moment but I have a whole week to come up with a reason why.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Texans 21
New York Giants (10-7) (+8) at Green Bay Packers (15-1) 3:30PM CST (FOX)
Bonus Fun Fact: Giants lost to the Packers 38-35 in week 13.
The Meat: OK, so this is a long shot but just hear me out: In the Giants 2007-08 Super Bowl run, they played a game against the Patriots week seventeen in which they lost. They looked about the best team after a loss than I had even seen in my life: They were in the playoffs, confident, and not jacking around. They went on to win 3 straight road playoff games and then, of course, Super Bowl 42. So maybe, just MAYBE that first Green Bay will end up being a precursor to something bigger, and I certainly think that the Giants have a shot. The Packers have more than a shot. Rarely does a team win the Super Bowl and then a year later improve by five games in the standings. That’s pretty incredible, and they have everybody at attention and paying attention.
The Truth: The Packers are better than the Giants. In all fairness to the Giants, the Packers are better than probably 88% of the teams in the league without question, so it’s nothing derogatory against them I just don’t think New York has enough going on to win.
Prediction: Packers 31, Giants 20
Useless information regarding teams that are hardly in the playoffs anymore/were never in the playoffs in the first place: Hue Jackson was fired as the Oakland Raiders head coach, being almost visited from the grave by the ghost of Al Davis who couldn’t let it go without one last barbecue. The Jacksonville Jaguars hired a new head coach: Mike Mularkey – the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, which is fucking hilarious because those two franchises can jump off a boat anytime they’re ready. The Falcons offensive coordinator…how funny is that? This is going to seem like I’m bagging on the them, but the Falcons weren’t exactly the hyped offensive powerhouse that they were originally thought to be many a year ago when Matt Ryan was hot. Matt Ryan isn’t hot anymore, and wasn’t there at all. When you heard about all of the single season passing records…who were the guys up there? Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers. And you know who’s not up there? Matt Ryan. Oh, you’ll hear plenty about him from everyone, but he doesn’t have the stats. Guess who does? A guy who starts for the Lions. Kind of makes the “Chris Chandler era” seem less and less relevant with every first round playoff loss. And I’m not just gloating because the Giants beat them last week, I’m gloating because they suck and to say I am not an Arthur Blank fan would be a serious understatement. I’m done now.
What to watch for: With Troy Aikman and Joe Buck calling the Packers/Giants game, from a broadcasting angle there are all sorts of depressing things that could happen here at their expense and for the sake of our own entertainment. If they did a live Twitter chat during the broadcast, somebody would be at my doorstep within five minutes. Wouldn’t it be fun to harass the shit out of those two? Also, watch (and count) for Tebowfiles. A Tebowfile is a profile about Tim Tebow that’s a bunch of information about what we already know about him. Did you know he’s Christian?
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