Last week: 3-1. Postseason totals: 3-1, Pct. .750. Best Bets: 1-0, Pct. 1.000.
Home team in capital letters; point spreads (opening line) in parentheses after underdog team; selections with point spreads in bold.
New Orleans 24, SAN FRANCISCO 17 (+3)
In the 132 divisional playoff games from 1978 to the present, only three had road favorites (one of whom won—the Broncos, opening as a one-point favorite, 14-10 at Kansas City in 1997), compared with 13 road favorites in the 114 wild card games played since then (with a 4-9 record), and 10 out of the 66 conference championship games (they went 5-5; in all cases the spread records are identical since no road favorite in modern postseason history has ever won the game and not covered the spread!).
This is also the first of two games this week where one team appears to have the other team's number so to speak, in that the Saints have won the last six meetings in this series.
Furthermore, New Orleans also takes a huge edge in playoff experience into this one, and did go 3-2 straight up (2-3 against the spread) outdoors during the regular season. Drew Brees won't put up his customary numbers facing the rugged 49er defense, but what he does produce should be enough to win.
Denver 30 (+14), NEW ENGLAND 27
Who knew that Tim Tebow could pass too? His 316 passing yards in last week's wild-card win over Pittsburgh was a career high—and talk about taking a sharp drop in company: Tebow goes from facing the best pass defense in the NFL in that game to the second worst one here!
Someone needs to come up with an alternative to "one and done" when the team in question had a first-round bye. How about "bye and bye"? That will be New England—for the second year in a row (and "one and done" the year before that). Upset special.
BALTIMORE 27, Houston 6 (+7)
This is the other game where one team has owned the other of late. And how: The Texans are 0-5 straight up and 1-4 against the spread lifetime vs. Baltimore, including a 29-14 loss at M&T Bank Stadium back in Week 6—and they didn't have to deal with any weather issues that day, as they will this time around (even with their one-point win at Cincinnati in Week 14, the Texans have still lost three of their last four cold-weather games, and eight of their last 12).
Expecting a team with a third-string quarterback (which they also didn't have in that regular-season outing) to overcome all of this is asking an awful lot, and the Ravens, who figure to be pumped for what will be their first home playoff game in five years, should take this one easily in the divisional playoff weekend's safest investment.
GREEN BAY 28, N.Y. Giants 24 (+9)
Despite the records and seedings, the Giants clearly pose a greater threat to the Packers returning to the Super Bowl than any of the other teams that made the playoffs in the NFC, for two vital reasons.
First, the Giants are the only other NFC playoff team that does not play their home games either in a warm climate or indoors.
Second, the Giants have already proven they can go into Lambeau Field in January and come out with a win, as they did four years ago, and with essentially the same core of players they have now.
Add the fact that the home field in this matchup has been of little benefit recently—1-6 straight up and 2-5 against the line in the last seven—and there is no reason whatsoever to lay this number. So definitely take the points, and the Giants have real chances of pulling off the outright upset.
BEST BET: BALTIMORE