The biggest football weekend of the year has arrived my friends: the Elite Eight will square off this Saturday and Sunday with four winners advancing to the semi-finals—the Final Four, if you will.
On Sunday, the Houston Texans travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens, while the New York Giants head to Green Bay to play the Packers.
Let's take a look at all four matchups and project which teams will cover the spread this weekend.
I absolutely love this game.
The San Francisco 49ers are playing the role of home underdogs against a dome team firing on all cylinders.
The 49ers are well-rested, healthy and will have a huge home-field advantage in front of a San Francisco crowd that's had to wait a decade for another home playoff game.
The Niners boast the second-best scoring defense (14.3 points per game) and the top ranked rushing defense (77.3 yards per game) in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the Saints are the No. 2 scoring team (34.2 points per game) and top ranked offensive unit in both total yards and passing yards in the league.
Something has to give here folks, and it all comes down to the fact that New Orleans is simply a different team when they play outside of their dome.
The Saints have only played one game outdoors in their last six, a 22-17 win at Tennessee—a game they were extremely fortunate to win.
Look for the 49ers to execute their game plan to perfection by staying "on schedule" and getting to 3rd-and-short in order to grind out first downs via the run or safe play-action fake passes to the tight end.
The key to beating the Saints is playing keep away from Drew Brees, and the 49ers have the head coach in Jim Harbaugh who knows exactly how to accomplish that.
Final Score: San Francisco 23, New Orleans 20
December 18th in Mile High Stadium, the final score read: New England 41, Denver 23.
What reason do we have to think this game is going to be any closer the second time around in New England?
That's the point—we don't have one because there isn't one.
No, they are not.
Final Score: New England 34, Denver 17
This is a really tough game to predict.
On one hand, we have a really solid Houston team who looked great last week in a dominating home win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
On the other hand, we have a Baltimore Ravens team who went 8-0 at home this season, but always seems to play down to the level of their opponent.
Joe Flacco has struggled this year, and in reality, isn't a huge upgrade over T.J. Yates at this point.
Granted, he has won a playoff game in each of his three seasons, so he does have the experience factor going for him.
But these two teams are just so similar, and in case you haven't noticed, the Texans defense has been every bit as good as the Ravens defense this season.
Arian Foster and Ray Rice, Andre Johnson and Anquan Boldin and on and on and on. How are we supposed to even tell these teams apart?
My advice in this one is to take the points and cross your fingers—that half-point will be huge.
Final Score Baltimore 27, Houston 20
This is the game of the weekend.
The New York Giants are healthy for the first time all season, and they are playing as good as any team in the league.
They've rediscovered their running game behind Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs—who combined for 155 yards on 28 carries last week versus the Atlanta Falcons. Granted, it's pretty hard to stop the running game when you have to deal with a group of wide receivers like Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham.
But enough about the offense, what about this Giants pass rush now that a healthy Osi Umenyiora has been reunited with Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul?
Finally healthy for the first time all season, we're witnessing a ridiculously loaded team on both sides of the ball that's finally getting to show off all their weapons to the rest of the world.
And in the other corner, the Green Bay Packers!
I mean, what else is there to say about Green Bay? You all know exactly what I know—this is a historically great team led by a quarterback playing at a level never before seen in the the league.
The Packers have won 21 of their last 22 games, and they are playing at home against maybe the second best team in the league right now. This one will be close, so take the points and expect the Packers to hold on at home.
Final Score Green Bay 34, New York 31