The first weekend of the 2012 NFL Playoffs is officially complete and we are down to the "Elite Eight" of the NFL. The divisional round will pick up on Saturday with four intriguing matchups across the NFL. The media will focus in on the advancement of Tim Tebow, but the remaining matchups feature some serious top-flight talent.
New Orleans Saints @ San Francisco 49ers: The Saints had their way with the Detroit Lions on Saturday as they put up 35 second half points to send the Lions packing from the Superdome. Drew Brees and the Saints offense struggled early as a pair of turnovers cost them some early points. However, the Lions were unable to take advantage of those turnovers and they let the Saints hang around. When you do that, the Saints offense will eventually make you pay.
Now the Saints advance to face the 49ers in Candlestick Park. The 49ers fought hard for the two seed and this is the exact reason why. The Saints offense is incredibly dynamic, but they also have had some issues when out in the elements. The 49ers defense will have its hands full, but they have the weapons to potentially contain this offense to a certain extent.
Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots: The Broncos sprung the only upset of the weekend as they stunned the Pittsburgh Steelers on the first play of overtime to win 29-23. The Broncos were at home but still significant underdogs in part because nobody really seems to expect them to score many points against quality defenses. Of course, they were facing a banged up Steelers defense that overplayed the run on that first OT play and it cost them the season.
The Broncos travel to Foxboro for a rematch with the New England Patriots. The Patriots went into Denver earlier this season and took care of business against the Fightin' Tebows. I've been enjoying the Tim Tebow experience this season, but I just don't see the Broncos hanging around with the Patriots. If the Broncos defense brings its A++ game for four quarters they have a chance, but if they let up for even a few minutes, the Patriots offense can flip this game sideways. I think that is what ends up happening, no matter what Tim Tebow brings to the table.
Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens: The Texans played their first ever playoff game on Saturday, and they made the most of it as they had little trouble with the Cincinnati Bengals. The game was a fairly tense affair into the second quarter, but the Texans offense turned up the heat and allowed them to pull away with relative ease in the second half. T.J. Yates avoided mistakes and made some big plays while Arian Foster dominated on the ground. It was a clear-cut blueprint for success.
The Texans travel to Baltimore to face an incredibly tough Ravens defense. I suspect the Ravens will load up the box against Arian Foster and Ben Tate and force T.J. Yates to make even more plays. I think the Ravens roll through this one, but if Arian Foster can have some consistent runs, the upset is possible. This could be an incredibly low-scoring game.
New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers: The Giants and Falcons looked like they were ready to lock into a four quarter defensive struggle as neither team could get much of anything going heading into the second quarter. The Falcons grabbed a safety an the Giants answered with a touchdown, but it was fairly quiet. However, the Giants overwhelmed the Falcons in the second half in all phases of the game. The Giants put together a complete half of football and rolled to victory.
Now the Giants travel to Lambeau Field in a rematch of an exciting Week 13 contest at the Meadowlands that saw the Packers escape with a last second 38-35 victory on a Mason Crosby field goal. The Packers have opened as nine points favorites so the oddsmakers do not see much of this one. The Giants are a tough team to figure out as they have been fairly inconsistent this season. They could lose by 20, or they could spring the upset and I don't think any result in between would surprise me.
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