The 2012 Wild Card round delivered a weekend of sensational highlight-reel play and historical performances on both sides of the ball, most notably by the quarterbacks. Drew Brees in particular comes to mind, with yet another record-setting performance as he threw for over 460 yards. Tim Tebow sits right there with him, delivering a ridiculous 31 yards per completion in a 316 yard passing performance against none other than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The question this week is, can Brees and Tebow do it again, and can the rested-but-rusty bye-week quarterbacks come in and counter the momentum of the Wild Card winners?
Lets have a look at who will and won't perform under center for the 2012 Divisional round.
-T.J Yates and Joe Flacco:
The Houston Texans-Baltimore Ravens game is going to be a defensive slugfest of epic proportions. Make no mistake, the winner of this one is going to do it on the ground, not through the air. The quarterback who makes fewer mistakes is going to come out on top in Baltimore. No pass plays from this game are making the SportsCenter top 10.
Alex Smith has never been asked to carry the team during the 2011 NFL season. He's always had help from either the running game, the defense, or both. There is no reason to believe that he will be asked to do it now, especially when the 49ers will not be able to afford any mistakes against the white-hot Saints. His performance may be good or bad, but it won't be noteworthy.
Before you go crazy, hear this one out. Rodgers has not taken a snap since Week 16. In Week 15, he went 17 for 35 for 235 yards and one touchdown during the Packers only loss of 2011. In that loss, the Pack was manhandled by a ferocious and physical Chiefs pass rush, which is what they will face against the Giants at home on Sunday.
In recent years, the bye week has not been kind to offensively-oriented teams during the playoffs ( like the 2009-2010 Patriots and 2010 Falcons).
Rodgers will be going up against a New York Giants defense that literally shut out the Atlanta Falcons offense. Say what you will about the Falcons, they were a very talented and explosive unit (8th in passing, 17th in rushing). If the Giants shut them out, why expect a great game from Rodgers? He will be pressured far more than he was in his first meeting with New York this year, which could make the difference in the game.
Tim Tebow electrified Mile High Stadium with another bout of late game heroics on Sunday. Despite completing only 10 passes through the entire game, he torched the Pittsburgh Steelers for an unbelievable 31 yards per completion.
Mind you, they are one of the NFL's best defensive units, if not THE best.
Now, he will be going up against the league's worst defense in New England. If he can disembowel the Steelers, he can certainly pick apart the anemic Patriots secondary.
This New England team has a recent history of doing poorly in the playoffs defensively, and that could very well happen again.
Expect another low percentage in completions, with around 15 completed passes for two touchdowns and close to 300 yards once again.
Tebow Time is now.
Tom Brady is still Tom Brady, even if the defense he practices with could be replaced by a high school unit.
Going up against a fierce Denver Broncos defense, Brady will have a tough task ahead of him. He will be engaged in an unlikely shootout with Tim Tebow, and will be without help from his run game against a stout Denver front seven.
Still, Brady can put the team on his back when he needs to, and he will.
Expect Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker to be locked down, opening up a window for Aaron Hernandez and Deion Branch to have big games.
Look for 200-300 yards passing and multiple touchdowns, with his usual high completion percentage. However, against the Broncos' pass rush, expect a couple of turnovers from Brady as well.
Whether his efforts will be enough to secure a victory, is another matter entirely.
Eli Manning is playing the best football of his career, hands down. He put the team on his shoulders for most of 2011, and now they are finally paying him back by stepping up to his level.
A formerly lethargic run game has come to life, and will use fresh legs to pound the rock in the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field this weekend, opening up the play action on Green Bay's vulnerable secondary. Manning's career passer rating is significantly higher on play action, so if the field is opened up expect bomb plays. That would be a good bet considering the Giants' runners have combined for over 110 yards in each of the last three games, including a 172 yard performance last weekend.
Eli has been the underdog at Lambeau in the postseason before, so don't look for him to get rattled.
Expect a 250-300 yard, multi-touchdown game mired by an interception or two.
What is there to say? Nobody has ever played quarterback the way Drew Brees is playing it right now. The passing yardage record might be gaudy due to Sean Payton's playcalling, but you can't explain away 72% completions for the season (NFL record).
Going up against a 49ers team which is very similar defensively to the Detroit Lions team he just dismantled, expect another huge day from Brees.
300-400 yards passing are in order, but the caveat will be whether the 49er defense keeps him out of the endzone.
That will be the story of this game, but in the end you can bet that Brees will be the gunslinger of the weekend once again.