Saturday, 4:30 pm: New Orleans Saints (14-3) at San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
New Orleans’ elite offense vs. San Francisco’s elite defense. So many factors here that I couldn’t list them all with the amount of time I’ve given myself. So I’ll boil it down to the one thing that I think will matter the most: the offensive and defensive lines. As good as the Niners’ D-line is, I don’t think they match up well against the Saints’ phenomenal O-line… and as mediocre as the Saints’ D-line is, I like their odds against the Niners’ adequate O-line.
Prediction: New Orleans 20, San Francisco 14
Saturday, 8:00 pm: Denver Broncos (9-8) at New England Patriots (13-3)
This is a no-win situation for me. I don’t want to root for the Pats, and I don’t want to root for Tebow to move on either. My review of the game is basically that Denver’s defense is good, but New England’s offense is better. I’d prefer that Denver win just because I don’t want the Pats in the playoffs anymore (and because Denver would have a road game next week instead of a home game for New England), but I just can’t see it going that way.
Prediction: New England 38, Denver 26
Sunday, 1:00 pm: Houston Texans (11-6) at Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
Oddly, an interesting matchup. Baltimore’s defense is better than Houston’s, but Houston’s offense is better than Baltimore’s if T.J. Yates plays at his best and Joe Flacco plays like he does most of the time. I don’t think either team is taking a victory for granted, and if somehow the Broncos win tonight both of these teams will be playing for another home game — which can be a very big motivator. I don’t think the pressure will get to Yates — he seems to be surprisingly unflappable — but I do think their streak of surviving injuries by plugging the holes with the next man up is going to run out. I would love to be wrong on this one and to see Houston move on, but I just see Baltimore with the advantage here.
Prediction: Baltimore 17, Houston 14
Sunday, 4:30 pm: New York Giants (10-7) at Green Bay Packers (15-1)
The best way for me to sum up this game is actually by using the final paragraph of the prediction from Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders (http://footballoutsiders.com/game-previews/2012/nfc-divisional-round-preview):
The Giants are a good team, they’ve played very well over the last couple weeks, and they provide particularly difficult matchup issues for the Packers. And yet, it seems almost like people are underestimating the Packers just because they haven’t seen Rodgers on the field since December. This was still the best team in the league in 2011. This offense is ridiculously powerful. The Giants are supposed to have a defense that can slow down the Packers and yet the Packers still scored 38 points when these teams first played. This is probably going to be another close game and the Giants will definitely put Aaron Rodgers on his back a few times. Manning will get his points too. But in the end, the Packers are just better, and they are at home. They have to be favored.
Prediction: Green Bay 45, New York Giants 34