2012 NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Preview – Saturday
Perhaps the best weekend of NFL Football starts Saturday, January 14, with two matchups featuring top offenses (of all time?) versus two unexpected upstart teams. Both of the underdogs will need big days by their defense as well as more points than their used to scoring.
New Orleans Saints @ San Francisco 49ers
- Bottom-line: We know the 49ers run the ball and stop the opposition, but they will have to rely on the unexpected to outscore this Saints team.
- On offense: The Saints are the most multiple team in the league, using tons of formations with various players. Drew Brees has had a great season, and New Orleans has found great balance with their three headed rushing attack. Obviously, they will score their points and their effectiveness in the redzone is going to be tested this week. The 49ers will need to take shots this week because they won’t win this game scoring 17 or running a safe offense, because many times punting against NOLA is like a turnover…although playing on the road has reduced their offensive output, despite a league best record on the road the last three years (18-6).
- Defenses: Patrick Willis, the rock…the man, the myth, the legend returns just in time for SF. He will need to control the middle of the field and combine with Navarro Bowman in attempt to keep Sproles and Graham in check. Expect to see a lot of nickel and dime from SF…Aldon Smith, one of the marvels from the 2011 combine, has been great late…combining with Justin Smith to terrorize teams, but they’ll be against Bushrod and Nick who are as good as it gets. On the other end of the spectrum, the Saints figure to blitz early and often, as per the usual. SF struggled against blitz heavy teams, AZ and Balt, and it seems clear they will be tested again. I expect Kyle Williams to be the sleeper of the game with Ginn also trying to produce big plays.
- PREDICTION: SF won’t be able to keep up, either because of too much pressure or not enough redzone production. The Saints go marching on 27-20.
Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots
- Bottom-line: The first of three rematches this weekend. Game was closer than the score indicated the first time around and I could see the opposite today.
- On offense: The Patriots have too many weapons for the Broncos. Last time, Carter got exploited by Hernandez for 129 yards on 9 catches. They choose to double Gronkowski and Welker, and it resulted in 41 points…six of which came on a wide-open OchoCinco TD. The Patriots could surprise some by running the ball more this week, since they’ve been very effective out of the shotgun while Denver has struggled to stop the run in that situation. The Broncos will need for Tebow to beat man coverage. In the first meeting Tebow was highly productive in the first half against zone coverage. After the half, the Patriots played press-man and set the template for beating Tebow…until last week. But unlike last week, the Patriots will keep a safety back and make Tim earn his yards. They must not turn the ball over and limit empty possessions.
- Defenses: The Broncos need to get pressure on Brady. Bringing 5 or 6 men. Last meeting, too many times they only rushed 3 and when you do that you give Brady all day to pick apart your defense. They need hit Brady and not let him camp out in the middle of the pocket. Meanwhile, the Patriots won’t let the big play beat them, Tebow will have to earn it slowly but surely. The corners have been suspect all season, led by McCourtey’s fall from grace this year. The safeties have struggled so much that they’ve played WRs there. The loss of Andre Carter was a big one and they’ll struggled to comeback from 20 pt deficits in the playoffs.
- PREDICTION: Too much fire power…the Patriots are hungry to win a game in the postseason for the first time in years and will do so: 38-24.
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