New Orleans vs. San Francisco
The 49ers have been too good to be true this season, posting a shocking 13-3 after going 6-10 in 2010. Former first overall pick Alex Smith won't win you anything with his skills, but he has learned to take care of the ball, hand it off to Frank Gore and rely on his top-notch defense to win games.
Conversely, Drew Brees has posted a record-breaking passing season and his performance will determine the outcome of the game. Brees plays far better at home (8-0, 29 TDs, 6 INT) than away (5-3, 17 TDs, 8 INT) and SF is a tough match-up for any passer. They've intercepted 23 passes this season and only have given up 20 TDs. If he's able to move the ball through the air and avoid picks, the Saints will win.
I don't think the 49ers believe in themselves yet and will succumb to inexperience. Saints 24, 49ers 10 as SF is unable to move the ball.
Denver vs. New England
Tim Tebow shocked the football world with his arm last week, shredding the #1 defense in the league for a career-high 316 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime. He was able to move the ball consistently against a tough defense, repeatedly converting 3rd downs. He capitalized against a weakened Steeler secondary who were without Ryan Clark due to sickle cell condition.
New England comes into the playoffs on fire, winning their final 9 contests. Brady has been almost perfect, launching 39 TDs and only 9 INT and posting a 13-3 record. New England weakness is an ineffective rushing attack and a mediocre-to-bad defense.
Tebow Time will run out of steam on Saturday night. Tom Brady and the NE offense, much like the first game, will be too difficult to keep up with. Patriots 41, Broncos 24.
Houston vs. Baltimore
Baltimore and Defense go together like Houston and Having Problems. Since their Super Bowl season of 2001, the Ravens have never ranked lower than 10th in total yards allowed (Including outlying seasons like 2005 & 2007). Ray Rice has had another spectacular season, posting over 2000 total yards from scrimmage. Their biggest downside is their reliance on Rice, failing to stretch the field with a passing attack. Their total offense ranks 15th overall in the NFL.
The Texans, participating in their first ever NFL Playoffs, wield a dangerous weapon in Arian Foster and they rode him to a first round win against Cincy. They have a very stingy defense who ranked 2nd in the NFL in yards allowed. Rookie QB T.J. Yates managed the game well, throwing for 159 yards, 1 TD and most importantly, 0 interceptions.
This will be the lowest scoring game of the weekend. The Texans will struggle to move the ball with Foster. Looks for the Ravens to get the ball to Rice in non-traditional ways (i.e. screens, draws and swing passes). Joe Flacco must comeplete at least 3 passes over 30 yards. Ravens 14, Texans 3.
New York Giants vs. Green Bay
Green Bay has been dominant all season. They went 15-1 (winning their first 14 games) and led the league in scoring offense with 560 points. They have the best Quarterback in the league in Aaron Rodgers, who at times looks as if he is toying with teams. The Packers defense isn't what it was last season. They rank 32nd (dead last) in yards allowed. This may have been a product of blowing so many teams out throughout the season, but it does give some cause for concern. They are also a poor running team, ranking 27th overall.
The Giants are a mercurial team, sometimes looking unbeatable and sometimes looking downright awful. At one point this season, the Giants dropped four straight games. Eli Manning has had a career season, throwing for almost 5000 yards and posting a 92.9 quarterback rating. He has two lethal options in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. Slot receiver Mario Manningham even performed well last week, grabbing a touchdown. The Giants also have a pass rush that could give Rodgers problems. They notched 48 sacks this season, ranking 2nd in the NFL behind Philadelphia and Minnesota's 50.
This will be the most offensive-oriented game of the weekend. It features two strong passing offenses and two weak secondaries. The Pack have rested for the better part of two weeks and could experience some problems due to rust. Rodgers failed to net over 300 passing yards in any of his last 3 games played. However, in Lambeau, in January, the Packers are tough to beat. Packers 31, Giants 28.