NFC Divisional Game One: Saints @ 49ers
Saturday, 4:30 PM ET, FOX
The Saints’ Side: The Saints’ offensive attack has had a fantastic year so far. QB Drew Brees shattered Dan Marino’s single season passing record. RB Darren Sproles had a superb year also, along with fellow RB’s Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, and Chris Ivory. New Orleans has a lethal core of WR’s, including Marques Colston and Devery Henderson. Tight End Jimmy Graham nearly had 100 receptions this year, and is a scary red zone go-to guy. The Saints have aired it out quite a bit and have ran the ball successfully. Their army of backs is tough to prepare for, and then the opposing coaches have to prepare for Drew Brees and Co. On defense, the Saints are solid all-around, including a trio of talented Corners: Jabari Greer, Patrick Robinson, and Tracy Porter.
The 49ers’ Side: Last year, the 49ers didn’t make the playoffs even though they play in the NFL’s weakest division. This year, they earned a First-Round Bye and dominated in the NFC. The 49ers defense improved drastically, including a run-stopping machine in LB Patrick Willis. CB Carlos Rogers made six interceptions this year and had 43 tackles. On offense, they are pounding the ball with star RB Frank Gore. Gore has tired out defenses this year and has been very effective. QB Alex Smith has drastically improved from last year, and much of the credit should be directed to former NFL Quarterback and current Niner HC Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh rejuvenated this franchise from a mediocre team to a Super Bowl contender. His energy has inspired his team and has sparked this comeback.
The Bottom Line: Drew Brees is the big factor in this game. If the Niners shut him down than they will win, but if they don’t they will get whooped.
Prediction: Saints, 34, 49ers, 17
NFC Divisional Game Two: Giants @ Packers
Sunday, 4:30 PM ET, FOX
The Giants’ Side: The Giants creamed the Falcons last weekend 24-2 at home and clearly have momentum heading into this game. Earlier this season, the Giants nearly beat the Packers but fell short. The Giants will come out of this game firing on offense and defense. QB Eli Manning is poised for a big game against one of the worst defenses in the NFL (they ranked dead last). The Giants run game should also heat up in the chilly Green Bay. On defense, they have to pressure Aaron Rodgers with their fearsome front. If they attack they interior line, they should find success bringing down Green Bay’s starting Quarterback. They need to put a heavy focus on covering TE Jermichael Finley, also. They can’t allow him to sneak through open zones in the defensive linebacking and secondary areas.
The Packers’ Side: Green Bay has easily been the best team in the regular season. They have had a 15-1 record, and QB Aaron Rodgers has been red hot. But he has had two weeks off—they rested him in Week 17 and had a bye last week, so he could be a tad bit rusty in the beginning of the game. Their Offensive Line has to hold up for all four quarters, and their Running Backs have to give him an extra second to throw by chipping a blitzer. On defense, they have to contain the Giants’ running game. They can’t allow the Giants to run for 60 minutes and let Manning just hand the ball off. The Packers need to force Manning into mistakes.
The Bottom Line: The Packers ended their regular season awkwardly (undefeated streak ended by Kansas City, a shootout win with Matt Flynn, and a bye week) meanwhile the G-Men are fresh off of a Falcon assault.
Prediction: Giants, 35, Packers, 31