New Orleans Saints (14-3) @ San Francisco 49ers (13-3,first round bye) Saturday, FOX 4:30 PM ET Drew Brees is on fire as he heads to San Francisco to take on a 49ers team that is ranked 4th overall in defense. That will prove to be a stiffer challenge for the Saints than Detroit was. What San Francisco does best is stop the run (ranked #1). Well, the Saints may not even have a rushing attempt on Saturday. Brees will keep spreading it all over the field until SF lays back some and opens up the lane for Darren Sproles. I think the biggest game comes from Jimmy Graham. As good as SF is against the run, they aren’t as good against the pass (and we all know how good Brees is WITH the pass).
New Orleans’ run defense is vulnerable and I believe SF’s will run the ball all over NO and pass when needed as NO is ranked 30th against the pass. Might I also mention that SF leads the league in give/takeaway ratio with +28....NO is a whopping -3. Offense sells tickets, defense wins games.
Beauties (bias) Pick: San Francisco (ducks from the flying objects being thrown my way..Saints fans are unruly!)
Confidence rating: 5
Denver Broncos (9-8) @ New England Patriots (13-3,first round bye) Saturday, CBS 8 PM ET
Tom Brady will be singing “anything you can do I can do better” as he and the Patriots take on Tebowmania.These teams faced off in week 15 and it ended in a 41-23 Patriots victory. Consider that the Denver won last week to a Pittsburgh team who had a Roethlisberger at about 50%....this week they’ll get a Brady at about 97% (I hear his shoulder is bothering him some).
As bad as the Patriots' defense is, they still rank 2nd (behind Green Bay) in interceptions with 23 for the season. Denver ranks 31st in passing yards, but they lead the league in rushing yards. I love the Bronco defensive intensity and they know how to get after the QB. Tebow will have the team pumped up and they will no doubt show up to play, but it won’t be enough to pull off the upset. The Pats are going to score lots of points in this game, as they've been doing for most of the season (they may even score on defense). Tebow isn't going into Belichick’s world and outdo Brady and Company...period.
Beauties Pick: New England
Confidence rating: 9
Houston Texans (11-6) v Baltimore Ravens (12-4, first round bye) Sunday, CBS 1 PM ET
A rookie QB against a defense that eat rookie QBs for breakfast. A strong running game against a team that doesn't give up anything on the ground (ranked 3rd). A team making its first playoff appearance on the road, in a hostile environment. These are all the things going AGAINST the Houston Texans. The things going FOR them....they are ranked 2nd overall defensively and are up against a schizophrenic Ravens offense that are so unpredictable you never know which offense you’re going to get. The Texans defense is consistent (shout out to Wade Phillips!) The Ravens have Ray Rice...Texans have Arian Foster. The Ravens have Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs....Texans have Mario Williams and Brain Cushing (notable mention: Demeco Ryans!). Texans have Andre “the beast” Johnson...Ravens have ????? Torrey Smith...well anyway you get my point! Here’s food for thought.....A 13th ranked Texans offense will be facing a 3rd ranked Ravens defense. A 15th ranked Ravens offense will be facing a 2nd ranked Texans defense. Clear as mud huh!
New York Giants (10-7) @ Green Bay Packers (15-1, first round bye)
Sunday, FOX 4:30 PM ET
Aaron Rodgers and the GB Packers are itching to play and might feel a bit disrespected by how the Giants are being discussed. I am also pretty sure that they will remind us how good they are.
Green Bay has heard all week about how the Giants will come in and pull off the upset. GB takes one week off and people have already forgotten who they are, what they've done all year, that GB lead the league in interceptions with 31 (Charles woodson has 7 of those), that in the give/takeaway category GB is +24 ...but they are 32nd (LAST) in overall defense. That is there only flaw (a flaw that has cost them only one game). That being true, GB's defense is talented enough to make things miserable for Eli . And when Eli gets flustered he starts to make mistakes....a.k.a turnovers. I will admit that Eli has been playing great lately and the Giants seem to have found a balance attack with the running of Bradshaw and the incredible play of Victor Cruz. Their defense has also stepped up to the call of duty when they had to (See Dallas Cowboys, ugh). If anybody can beat the Packers, it's the Giants (38-35 week 13 loss). Did I mention that Greg Jennings will return this week?
Beauties Pick: Green Bay
Confidence rating: 7