Three more differences are featured in the 2nd playoff installment of EHP.
Last week, Whit and I both went an impressive 1-3 thanks to victories by Houston and New York. Not a great start, but this is the week for redemption. Following my lead, Whit couldn’t manage to send picks via e-mail, instead just texting his covers. So, the paragraphs analyzing the games are my thoughts, and out picks will be highlighted at the end of each. For me, this is an extremely difficult week, as I can make a logical argument for any of the teams to win, there isn’t a combination of games in next week championship games that would surprise me.
New Orleans Saints (-3.5) @ San Francisco 49ers
Looks like Vegas is not sold on something in San Francisco, as a team that’s spent the last decade in NFL Limbo is a home underdog to what may be the hottest team in football right now. The Saints have not only won their last nine games, they’ve covered all of them. Still, despite that hot streak, San Francisco managed to keep pace, and win the race for the #2 seed, earning them the opportunity to win this game. What is important here is which Saints team will show up. The last two games the Saints have played in the conditions have resulted in an unimpressive 22-17 win in Nashville and a very impressive 49-24 win in the Meadowlands over the Giants. The Niners earn their paychecks on the other side of the ball, with impressive defense and one of the best Front Seven in the game, including a 14 sack effort by rookie Aldon Smith, who’s been keeping up with the Smith’s (Alex, Justin, Reggie) very well. This is a strength vs. strength game, and I think the All Pro guards that are protecting Drew Brees will make the overall difference in the game. The Saints find a way to win a fairly low scoring game, but the Niners will cover.
r5d3 – 49ers cover
Whit – Saints cover
Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots (-13.5)
Large spreads haven’t been kind to New England this season, remember the 20+ favorite they were against Indy? Another team that plays barely any defense going up against a team who made it here because of defense. Usually, come this time of the year, the defense wins over. The Broncos won a huge confidence building game last week, but it was at the expense of a very banged up Pittsburgh team. The Steelers may not use the excuse, but I will. Still, I like what the Broncos can bring on defense, especially if Dumervil and Miller can get their engines revving early and often. Tom Brady should find his TE combination on occasion though, even if Wes Welker is hobbled by injury. In the end, the Patriots prove a bit too tough to beat, but the Broncos cover the large spread.
r5d3 – Broncos cover
Whit – Broncos cover
Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens (-7.5)
This game has been given me fits all week, I just can not figure this game out. This one is different from the other three, which pit great offense vs. great defense, this game features two defensive teams vying for supremacy. Sure, the first though when it comes to defense is always to simply say Ravens and be done with it, but not so fast. The reason the Texans didn’t suffer the same fate that the Bears did was because Houston overcame a loss at Quarterback by playing great defense. And that is what will shine this week as well. I don’t like the timing of Joe Flacco going to the media to spout off about some sort of perceived lack of respect, and I believe the Texans can force him into making a couple mistakes. The Texans, despite running into the heart of the Ravens defense all game long, will find enough of a ground attack to not only cover, but win, the game.
R5d3 – Texans cover
Whit – Ravens cover
New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers (-7.5)
I never thought I’d get to say it this season, but the Packers are currently suffering from a severe lack of respect. Watch any of the studio shows this week , and it feels like the Giants have already been proclaimed winners. Newsflash! The Packers are a team that has won 22 out of their last 23 games, including two wins against the Giants. It would seem to me that would matter more than a game in 2007 that sent the Giants to the Super Bowl and Brett Favre into retirement (number one). These are not those Packers, but these Giants are fairly close to those. Still, despite Corey Webster playing excellent ball all year, I can’t see the Giants pass defense finding ways to keep Nelson, Jenning and Finley covered. New York does get the edge of a healthy defensive line who has found their top gear playing against a patchwork offensive line for the Packers, but it won’t be enough. The Packers win this game, and get to the cover late.
R5d3 – Packers cover
Whit – Giants cover