After a long work week, NFL playoff Saturday is finally upon us and things couldn’t appear more inciting. Story lines are abundant and with only eight teams remaining to obtain the trophy seen above, we could very well be looking at the eventual Super Bowl champions today and not even know it. In early action, one of the league’s more storied franchises returning to the playoffs versus a team who inspired an entire region led by a quarterback who just had arguably the finest regular season in NFL history.
Then, to sweeten the pot, we follow that with a franchise who has been dubbed the team of the 2000′s with a sure fire first ballot Hall of Fame coach and quarterback taking on a team that’s been inspired by the sheer mystique surrounding it as well as the defense and their controversial and mentally tough quarterback. Does it get any better than this?
5 Reasons The New Orleans Saints Will Win (AJ)
1. Drew Brees. He sliced a solid Lions defense into ribbons, passing for 466 yards in the process. This San Francisco defense that prides itself on stopping the run won’t be able to hang with the NFL’s best.
2. On the other side of the ball, Alex Smith is not a good enough quarterback to hold pace. If you wanna hang with the Saints, you gotta be prepared for a shootout, which the Niners aren’t.
3. Like Detroit, the Niners are full of playoff first-timers. Experience will aid the Saints.
4. The Saints have all of the momentum coming in; the Niners have to be worried about bye week rust. If San Francisco was more seasoned, that week off would probably be beneficial, but not playing a game for two weeks should prove to be more harmful than helpful.
5. The Niners’s 13-3 record came within a relatively weak division, featuring 8-8 Arizona as their toughest competition. They aren’t a bad team, but they aren’t two seed-good, either.
Score: 31-17, Saints
5 Reasons The San Francisco 49ers Will Win (Raj)
1. The 49ers possess the league’s most stifling defense. Patrick Willis force a key fumble, Drew Brees will find himself unable to complete those long bombs he was casually tossing last weekend against Detroit.
2. Alex Smith doesn’t turn the ball over. Against a big play defense like the Saints’ this will be crucial because he’ll prevent them from starting their drives at an advantageous field position consistently throughout the afternoon.
3. When the game’s on the line, Frank Gore will put the Niners’ Super Bowl aspirations on his back and run effectively. He’ll convert crucial 3rd-and-shorts and help run down the clock, preserving an early S.F. lead.
4. Vernon Davis’ playoff debut will be nothing short of spectacular. The TE is going to have a two touchdown game and will put the points that will keep the 49ers ahead for good.
5. Did you forget about the honey badger? With Jim Harbaugh having motivational techniques like this in his arsenal, is there anything that can keep San Francisco from coming out with the W?
Score: 24-23, 49ers
5 Reasons The New England Patriots Will Win (AJ)
1. Great teams are measured by postseason success, and New England hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008. That fact won’t be lost on Tom Brady and co. If Brady wins one more ring, he has to be grouped with Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas as one of the best all-time, so don’t be surprised if he enters the Bill Simmons-coined “Fuck You Mode” for the duration of this postseason.
2. Denver isn’t equipped to hang with an explosive offensive team like New England. As was painfully evident when the Patriots ran them off the field back in December, to the tune of 41-23.
3. I don’t want to say that Tebow’s performance against Pittsburgh was flukey, but if you make 11 completions for 316 yards, well, you can complete the sentence. Try that shit against the Patriots and it won’t work. Pair those stats with his outfielder throwing mechanics, and I’m gonna continue to cross my arms and pout about his success.
4. Rod Gronkowski simply can’t be guarded. He’s too fast for a linebacker and too big for a defensive back. Look for him to score at least two touchdowns.
5. Playing at Mile High always gives Denver a bit of an edge. It won’t make the biggest difference in the world, but playing at sea level will ensure that, conditioning-wise, everybody plays at an even level.
Score: 38 – 21, Patriots
5 Reasons The Denver Broncos Will Win (J. Tinsley)
1. I’m still on the Willis McGahee bandwagon. After a fumbled that nearly cost Denver the game last week, look for the former Hurricane to play a crucial factor in keeping Tom Brady off the field.
2. In the NFL – well, sports in general – it’s hard to beat a team twice. The Pats manhandled the Broncos at Mile High, but knowing what to expect plus added confidence going into the game could prove to be an underrated factor once the ball is kicked off.
3. The battle of the defenses. New England’s has show flashes of capability at carving itself out of a wet paper bag at times, but Denver’s has been the more consistent. Look for John Fox to have all sorts of packages that he prays gets some sort of pressure on #12.
4. Demaryius Thomas vs. whatever defensive back/safety is covering him. I’m siding with Thomas
5. If it worked against Pittsburgh, why not try it against New England? Look for Tebow to throw the deep ball early and often, which he actually executes quite well. It’s the short yardage passes that present problems.
Score: 27-23, Broncos