NFL Playoffs 2012: 4 Storylines to Watch for During Divisional Weekend
The divisional round of the NFL Playoffs is set to begin this weekend, and there is no shortage of storylines.
Tim Tebow will take on Tom Brady in a matchup of two of the NFL's most polarizing golden boys, while in the NFC the upset alert is out for the last two Super Bowl champions. Those scenarios and more will make this one of the most exciting weekends in sports.
Tebow vs. Brady
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Depending on your perspective, Tom Brady and Tim Tebow represent a matchup between the most popular—or annoying—quarterbacks in the NFL.
However, the fame of their names is the only thing these two have in common.
Tom Brady is the catalyst of the perennial Super Bowl-favorite New England Patriots.
Tim Tebow is the leader of a Denver Broncos team no one gave a shot to win their division. After they did stumble into the playoffs, they were not given a chance at beating the Pittsburgh Steelers—but they did.
Brady is a classic pocket passer who throws one of the most beautiful balls in football. Tebow runs as much as he throws, and his ducks can be heard quacking out of Mile High Stadium.
Brady hates to be hit, while Tebow looks to deliver the blow on his runs to the end zone. Brady has fathered a super model's child out of wedlock, while Tebow is "saving himself" for marriage.
In their Week 15 matchup, Tebow had the best statistical day of his regular season, but the Broncos got blown out 41-23. Denver jumped out to a big lead, then lost three fumbles in the second quarter.
The momentum and the lead swung to the Patriots, and the Broncos never got either back.
So will Tom Brady lead the Patriots to his first playoff win in four years? Or will Tebow be Tebowing all the way to the AFC Championship game?
Can the New York Giants Shock the World—Again?
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In Week 13, the New York Giants lost to the Green Bay Packers 38-35 in a game eerily reminiscent of the Giants' late regular season loss to the New England Patriots four years ago.
Even the score was the same, and we all know what happened in their Super Bowl rematch.
Now the Giants again have the chance to knock off the Super Bowl favorites, this time in the divisional round.
New York certainly looked capable of pulling the upset after dismantling the Atlanta Falcons 24-2.
The Giants have won three straight and four of their last five, and they seem to be peaking at the right time.
Their defense and running game (the catalysts of their last Super Bowl run) have rounded into top form. The defense has not allowed more than 14 points since Week 15.
The running game, ranked dead-last during the regular season, returned for 172 yards against the Falcons' sixth-ranked rushing defense. The Packers, while talented enough to flip the switch and forget the regular season, were ranked 14th.
Eli Manning is playing the best football of his career, and the Giants now have their full arsenal of defensive linemen, with Justin Tuck, Osi Umeniora and Jason Pierre-Paul.
Emotions were running so high after the Falcons game that JPP even went so far as to guarantee the victory against the Packers. He has since backed off those comments, stating "If we go out and execute like we did on Sunday, we should win."
I am inclined to agree.
New Orleans Offense vs. San Francisco Defense
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The New Orleans Saints entered the playoffs as the hottest team in the NFL.
They continued their strong play by blowing out the Detroit Lions at home, and everyone seems set to watch an NFC Championship game between the last two Super Bowl champions.
The San Francisco 49ers have something to say about that.
Writers have been ripped all season (as the recipient of more than a few of those comments, I would know) by 49ers fans for lack of respect to their team.
Now is San Francisco's time to prove to the world they are here, and they are legitimate.
San Francisco has the best defense in the NFC and can prove it by stopping the record-setting Drew Brees.
It is a classic offense-vs-defense matchup. I almost always go with the defense in those cases, but not this time.
Go ahead, San Francisco. Prove me and the rest of the "haters" wrong.
Can the Texans Keep Rolling?
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The Houston Texans have said goodbye to all their best players at some point this season.
Starting with Arian Foster's hamstring in the preseason, the injury bug has hindered Andre Johnson and forced the team to say goodbye to Mario Williams and their top two quarterbacks.
Yet this team keeps winning.
They will face their stiffest test against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens have to be considered the favorites to come out of the AFC. They have the defense, the dynamic playmaker in Ray Rice, and now the second-most experienced quarterback in Joe Flacco.
The Texans do have the defense and running game to pull the upset. The Texans D gave up just 17.4 points per game (fourth-best), and Arian Foster is an absolute game-breaker.
The determining factor will be if TJ Yates can continue to play mistake-free football against a Ravens defense that forced 26 turnovers in the regular season.