By Daniel Lewis and Aaron Sorenson
Last week offered some exceptional football games. We were 2-2 on our predictions, blowing the Atlanta game while being blown away by Denver. This weekend has two games Saturday and two games Sunday. We expect all of them to be entertaining, at the least head and shoulders above the Alabama-LSU rematch.
New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
These two teams met during the regular season, with the Packers traveling to Metlife Stadium in New Jersey to win 38-35. Aaron Rodgers drove the offense down the field in under one minute to retake the lead after an impressive drive by the Giants. Now the setting is switched, with the Giants traveling to Lambeau Field to face off against the No. 1 seed in the NFC.
Can the resurgent Giants rally around their defensive line, led by Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora, to take down the MVP candidate of the Packers and their quick scoring offense?
In a word, no.
Prediction: Packers 38, Giants 30
New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers
Drew Brees and the red-hot Saints leave the Big Easy to play in Candlestick Park against the 49ers. San Francisco has come out of nowhere under Jim Harbaugh, posting the top defense in the NFC. However, they never had to face an offense as good as New Orleans.
The Saints are coming off a complete domination of Detroit, running up and down the field to gather 626 yards and not once having to punt. San Francisco will have to step up its game and get a few stops to let their offense, led by Frank Gore and the methodical Alex Smith, score a few times to get separation from New Orleans.
Can 49er linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis hold back the onslaught, or will Drew Brees conduct the top offense to another playoff victory?
Prediction: Saints 34, 49ers 21
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
The No. 2 defense in the league against the No. 3 defense in the league. Yes, Houston has quietly improved under coordinator Wade Phillips, while Baltimore has stayed the course with experienced veterans Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Haloti Ngata. Baltimore overcame an inconsistent season by Joe Flacco to claim the AFC North title with a 12-4 record. All of Baltimore’s losses came to teams that did not make the playoffs, perhaps showing an inability to focus against teams with lesser talent.
Houston has been hammered by injuries, losing Mario Williams, Arian Foster, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson for parts of the season. This is the Houston franchise’s first trip to the playoffs, while Baltimore has been a constant in the playoff rotation over the last decade.
Baltimore can win if it executes the same plan it used in week six to defeat Houston 29-14, but things hardly ever go the same way twice in one season.
Either way it should be a good game.
Prediction: Texans 24, Ravens 23
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
We made the mistake of picking against Tim Tebow against an injury-riddled Steelers squad.
We will make the same mistake again, however. It’s tempting not to, with the momentum the Broncos seem to have. There are facts we could use to help persuade a belief in a Denver win. For example, the Broncos had a 16-7 lead in the second quarter against the Patriots in a game earlier this season. They had success running the ball against the Patriots. It’s not enough to convince us. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will lead New England to the AFC Championship game.
Prediction: Patriots 31- Broncos 27