|(Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)|
Ray Rice and the Ravens are hungry for a win against the Texans.
The Ravens finally have what it takes to make it back to the Super Bowl.
Overall playoff record: 3-1
Saints vs. Niners: 30-20 Saints
Yes, the Saints aren't nearly as good on the road, than when they are playing in the Superdome, but Drew Brees and the Saints have been in this position before. Good news for New Orleans is that the game will be played in the 60's, with low wind, and no rain.
The Niners might have the best defense in the league this season, but Drew Brees and the Saints have an answer for anything defensive coordinators throw at them. In his last five games, Drew Brees has thrown 19 touchdowns to only three interceptions. The Saints are hungry to return the Super Bowl, and would love to matchup against the Packers next week in a Week One rematch.
Having Brees on my fantasy team this year, I have followed him closely throughout the season. He consistently throws three touchdowns a game, and throws for over 300 yards. Even against a tough 49'ers defense, he will strive.
The problem for the Niners is that they can't keep up with the Saints. Even if they get some stops early on, Drew Brees and the Saints will figure it out sooner or later. With Alex Smith taking snaps, you never know how the Niners will do offensively. They certainly cannot rely on David Akers to kick five field goals in a playoff game.
The Niners have a bright future ahead, with a hardworking coach and an aggressive young defense, but the Saints' experience will lead them to victory on the road.
Broncos vs. Patriots: 35-29 Patriots
I want to pick the Broncos so badly to win this game, but my conscience tells me the Patriots will advance to the AFC Championship game.
Here's a case for the Patriots to win: They have all the experience in the world, with a future hall of fame quarterback. They are also 7-1 at home this season. They already beat the Broncos once this season, on the road by 18. They are the New England Patriots, three time Super Bowl winners this decade.
Now for the Broncos: Tebowing, Tebowmania, and Tim Tebow. The most popular athlete in the US had a monster game last week, throwing for over 300 yards, and scoring three touchdowns. The Broncos have the will, determination, and heart to win. They've won as the underdog plenty of times this season. In their loss to the Patriots, Tebow fumbled three times in the second quarter alone, if that doesn't happen it isn't a 41-23 loss.
Like I said last week, I expect the Broncos to lose, but by all means it won't be a blowout. If Tebow eats up the clock on offense, limits his turnovers, and the defense backs him up, this game will be close. Still, I expect Brady and the Patriots to end Tebowmania, at least for this season.
Texans vs. Ravens: 27-13 Ravens
Unlike the other games, this one shouldn't be a problem to predict.
The Texans are playing in just their second playoff game in franchise history, they don't have a starting quarterback, and they are playing one of the toughest defenses in the NFL.
The Ravens think they finally have what it takes to advance back to the Super Bowl. For the past decade, the Ravens have been the younger brother to the Steelers, and have watched their division rivals advance to the Super Bowl three times. This year is different though. The Ravens swept the Steelers in the regular season, have one of the biggest and baddest players on defense (Terrell Suggs), and a freight train at running back (Ray Rice). Joe Flacco has been disappointing this season, but maybe a deep playoff run will change the minds of Ravens fans.
Giants vs. Packers: 35-32 Giants
Even though the Packers are 15-1 this season, with their only loss being a fluke game against the Chiefs, the Giants are making some noise this week and think they can beat them. In their only matchup this season, the Packers got the better of the Giants, but the game had a bunch of questionable calls in the final minutes of the game.
Just like in 2007, the year the Giants won the Super Bowl, they weren't even projected to make the playoffs, let alone win it all. Also like the 2007 season, the Giants defense, especially their front line has been unstoppable. With Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Jason Pierre-Paul all rushing Aaron Rodgers, it will be difficult for the MVP frontrunner to get off passes.
Along with the defense, Eli Manning has really stepped up this season. The Giants have the fifth best pass offense in the league, as Eli is averaging close to 300 yards a game. The Packers' secondary isn't very strong, so Eli should be able to find his favorite targets in Nicks, Manningham, and Cruz.
The Packers have been unstoppable this season, but so were the Patriots when they lost to the Giants. Aaron Rodgers will not have a problem getting by the Giants' secondary, but it's the pressure from the front seven that will give Rodgers the most trouble.