Expect the expected
Though it would certainly add some spice if Tim Tebow could pull off another last-minute miracle against the Patriots, it doesn't look like there will be a lot of surprises this weekend. The Patriots already showed what they think of Tebowmania during the regular season and the other AFC slot figures to go to the team (Ravens) that was 8-0 at home this year and already beat the Texans there.
Don't expect the unexpected when the Giants go into Lambeau Field either.
If there is going to be any major intrigue, it will come in San Francisco. The Saints have steamrolled into the postseason and through the first round, but they are a dome team going to a windy, outdoor stadium.
Home sweet for most
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All four home teams won in the first round, and I think that trend will hold in three of the four cities this weekend. It's my bet that the 49ers, Patriots, Giants and Ravens will advance.
The 49ers have the league's best run defense and have the ability to make the Saints one-dimensional, which puts a crimp in their play-action passing game. The Broncos stunned the Steelers at home but have a bigger challenge knocking off a rested Patriots team that's averaging two touchdowns more than the Steelers.
The Packers have had some problems up front and will have a tough go of it against the Giants' defensive line. And the Ravens get the edge over the Texans, even though the teams are well matched in their defenses and running games, because Joe Flacco trumps T.J. Yates.
It should be a Brees
It will be the Saints and Packers in the NFC and Ravens and Patriots in the AFC.
If Drew Brees has one of those games in which he throws touchdown pass after touchdown pass, there won't be anything the 49ers can do to keep pace. The 49ers have had a wonderful season, but they haven't played a quarterback like Brees.
The Giants might match up against the Packers as well as any team remaining in the NFC. But Aaron Rodgers is capable of willing his team to victory. In the AFC, the Ravens are rested and ready and should be able to handle the Texans. It was one thing for Tim Tebow to perform a miracle in Denver; it will be another for him to do it in New England.
No more Tebow miracles
Betting on Tebow means betting against Tom Brady. And while the Patriots haven't sizzled in the playoffs in recent years, it is hard to go against Brady and the Pats at home on Saturday.
The Texans looked strong against the Bengals, but now they go outside, on the road against a far superior opponent. Look for the Ravens to prevail.
It's tempting to pick the Giants against the Packers. New York won't be bothered by the cold and its pass rush has flustered the best of them. But Aaron Rodgers still will outgun Eli Manning as the Pack march toward the Super Bowl.
The Saints go outside to play the 49ers on the road, meaning they may put up 30-some points instead of 40-plus. The Niners offense won't keep up.
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