Week one of the NFL playoffs are officially in the books and before we move on to the divisional round we should take a look back at last week’s action to see what we learned:
Lesson 1: The Giants are peaking
There may not be a hotter team right now in the NFL than the New York Giants. They have won three in a row all against teams that were facing possible elimination from the playoffs if they lost. Even scarier is the fact that none of these games have even been close. Their defense is in the zone holding their opponents to an average of 10 points per game over their last three contests. Eli Manning is also playing up to his potential averaging 280 yards and 2 ½ touchdowns combined with only one interception in the last 3 games. Does this mean they can go into Green Bay and upset the Packers? I am not sure but I do know that they go into this game with something they had been lacking for most of the year: Confidence.
Lesson 2: Drew Brees is the MVP of the league this year
I don’t need to see anymore. Even if the Saints go into San Francisco and somehow manage to lose the game I still think that Brees is all but guaranteed the MVP this year. He continued to put up Madden type numbers last week against the Lions completing 33/43 passes for 466 yards, 3 touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
Lesson 3: Don’t bet against Tim Tebow
I figure if I keep telling myself this then maybe I will take my own advice and avoid betting on this game altogether. So let me say it again. DON’T BET AGAINST TIM TEBOW… DON’T BET AGAINST TIM TEBOW… DON’T BET AGAINST TIM TEBOW!
So let’s do this:
MY PICKS (Home team in CAPS)
GAME 1: New Orleans Saints vs. SAN FRANSISCO 49ERS
LINE: SAINTS -3 ½
MY PICK: New Orleans Saints
SCORE: New Orleans 34 San Francisco 17
When I look at this matchup I can’t help but think that the Saints are the superior team. I understand that the 49ers had a better record throughout the regular season and I understand that Drew Brees is going to have a much harder time playing away from the comfort of artificial turf and a dome but with that being said I don’t think that the 49ers defense will be able to contain him. San Francisco has one of the top defenses in the NFL. They limit teams to an average of only 230 passing yards and are in the top ten in the league in sacks and interceptions. However, upon closer review, it turns out that the 49ers have only played three games against teams with a QB passer rating of over 90 (Cowboys, Lions, Giants) and during these three games they have allowed an average of 316 yards passing. They are also not able to pressure the elite QB’s as much either as their sacks and interceptions are down in these three games as well. The bad news for the 49ers is that Drew Brees is a better quarterback than anyone they have faced all year so I would expect him to throw for at least 350 yards with a few touchdowns. Can Alex Smith keep up? I don’t think so. He is averaging 180 yards and only one touchdown per game. I get the feeling this is going to be a long day for both Alex Smith and the 49ers defense so I am picking the Saints to win easily.
GAME 2: Denver Broncos vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
LINE: PATRIOTS -13 ½
MY PICK: Denver Broncos
SCORE: New England 28 Denver 16
As tempting as it may be to take New England in this game, I think that the Broncos are just good enough to cover. In their 1st matchup of the year, Denver got smoked 41-23. So why would I expect different results this time around? After all, as far as the Broncos were concerned, that was a must win game at the time. So after Denver backed into the playoffs with three straight loses, they do something they have been doing for the entire year, defying expectations and shocking the world. This time they did it by beating a better Steelers team in overtime on an amazing 80 yard pass by none other than Tim Tebow. I would love to throw stats at you to convince you of my argument like I did in the game above but I can’t! All the stats point to a New England blowout. They have a much better quarterback, home field advantage, and tons of playoff experience. That is what makes this Denver team so frustrating for some: They just keep continuing to defy logic by winning games. They have a solid defense that capitalizes on mistakes and a quarterback that barely makes any. They won’t wow you, they just hang around. The New England and Buffalo games were the anomalies, not the norm, for this Bronco team which is why I will not put much weight on either of those two games. For the rest of the year since Tebow has started, they have proven that they can stay close down the stretch and win games. I expect this to be the case again with New England coming out on top.
GAME 3: Houston Texans vs. BALTIMORE RAVENS
LINE: RAVENS -9
MY PICK: Houston Texans
SCORE: Baltimore 21 Houston 20
In terms of matchups, this is the most interesting game of the week. It puts together two teams that have both the same strengths and weaknesses. Houston and Baltimore are both run first, pass second teams. They have two of the most productive running backs in the NFL on their teams in Arian Foster and Ray Rice. Foster had a huge game against the Bengals last week rushing for 153 yards and two touchdowns. However, what concerns me is that he did seem very anxious early on in the game. He lost the ball twice and the Texans were fortunate that he recovered the ball both times. I look for the Ravens to try to capitalize on any mistake Foster may make. I am looking for big games from both RB’s as the quarterback play from both teams in average at best. Yates managed the game rather nicely against the Bengals but still only managed to throw for 150 yards. Expect both teams to run the ball all day and try to wear down the other team’s defense. We will be watching two of the best defenses in the NFL face each other and whichever defense can stay fresh is the one that will win this game. The team that controls the time of possession and runs the ball best in this game will be the team that comes out on top. I expect this to be the Ravens because in my opinion Rice has been the more consistent RB throughout the year. Even though their numbers are similar, Rice runs for more yards on average than Foster. More importantly however is that Foster had less carries than Rice but double the amount of fumbles. I think that this game could go either way but if Foster has trouble protecting the ball then expect Baltimore to come out on top.
GAME 4: New York Giants vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS
LINE: Packers -8
MY PICK: New York Giants
SCORE: Green Bay 31 New York 26
The NFL has saved the most entertaining game for last when the New York Giants travel to Green Bay to play the Packers. Eli Manning is red hot and the Giants seem to have everything going the right way. However, Green Bay doesn’t have a bad quarterback either in MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers. Expect solid play from both of these QB’s. New York should continue their solid defensive play and I expect them to be able to pressure Rodgers throughout the game. If they can force him into making a few bad throws then they will have a chance of winning the game. However, I believe that the best QB in this game will be the one that wins it and it is hard to argue against Aaron Rodgers. Even though I love the run New York has made at the end of the season and into the playoffs, I think it will come to an end against Green Bay even though they will cover the spread.
Last Week Against the Spread: 2-2