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By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
New Orleans Saints @ San Francisco 49’ers
Sun, 4:30pm, FOX
Line: Saints by 4
You can make a lot of different arguments both for and against both of these teams. The Saints have an unstoppable offense and the league’s most underrated running attack. The Niners have a legitimate top tier running attack and a stifling defense. New Orleans is 0-4 all-time in playoff road games. San Francisco is dominating at Candlestick. Most “experts” seem to think this game is a relative toss-up. So let me make this easy for you. When you’re getting ready to slap money down on one of these two teams, imagine a FOX split-screen of Drew Brees and Alex Smith, then tell me with a straight face how comfortable you’ll be with a small fortune riding on the right arm of the 49’ers starting QB.
Pick: New Orleans 31, San Francisco 24
Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots
Sun, 8:00pm, CBS
Line: Patriots by 14
Yes, the Broncos scored 29 points. Yes, Tim Tebow threw for over 300 yards. Yes, Denver won the game on an 80-yard TD pass the first play of overtime. Yes, the Patriots defense is thinner than Kate Moss on Weight Watchers. Yes, Denver’s defense is one of the league’s best. Yes, New England’s lost each of their last two home playoff games. No, I’m not picking the Broncos.
Pick: New England 38, Denver 17
Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens
Sun, 1:00pm, CBS
Line: Ravens by 9
Back before the postseason started, I picked Baltimore to go to the Super Bowl. I think this entire season has been shaping up as a “one last run” type of season for guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, who are clearly on the wrong side of their prime but are still just as determined to win as they were 10 years ago. They have a QB that doesn’t make mistakes, a top tier running back in Ray Rice who practically never fumbles and is almost a lock for 100 yards a game, and a coach who seems to know all of the right motivational techniques. The Colts, Jets, Chargers, and Steelers are all gone, so the Ravens really have to feel like it’s between them and the Patriots for the AFC crown. Meanwhile Houston’s just happy to have won a playoff game with their third-string QB, so this a house-money game for them. With that in mind, I think this game winds up being much closer than expected before Baltimore pulls it out in the final minutes.
Pick: Baltimore 23, Houston 17
New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers
Sun, 4:30pm, FOX
Line: Packers by 9
The comparisons continue to be drawn between the ’07 and ’11 Giants. The one big difference is that I don’t see Aaron Rodgers gift-wrapping this playoff game for New York the way Brett Favre did in the ’08 NFC Championship Game. The Giants will have to win this one outright, because the Packers offense simply doesn’t make many mistakes. Now, Big Blue showed last week that their defense is certainly back to being the feared unit they’re capable of being, but ultimately this game will come down to which QB makes the fewest mistakes. Expect this one lower-scoring than many are projecting, which means 9 points is way too high, but the Packers make home teams 7-for-8 in the playoffs with a win here.
Pick: Green Bay 24, New York 20
Straight Up: 2-2
Against Spread: 2-2
Straight Up: 172-88
Against Spread: 128-119-13
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