As we prepare for kickoff of Sunday's divisional round matchups between the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants and the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans, there's good reason to believe why there won't be any upsets today.
The NFC No. 1 seed Green Bay Packers and the AFC No. 2 seed Baltimore Ravens are both favored to win their respective contests, and their long layoffs will help them greatly in their quest to advance to their respective conference championships.
Not only has home-field advantage ruled this year's playoffs, but both winning teams from yesterday's slate seemed to benefit in a big way from a week's break from football.
The San Francisco 49ers hosted the high-flying New Orleans Saints and ended up upsetting the Saints 36-32 on a last-second touchdown pass from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis. Throughout the game, the 'Niners seemed refreshed and played much better than they were playing towards the end of the regular season, when they notched underwhelming wins against inferior opponents like the Cardinals and Rams.
The New England Patriots, meanwhile, apparently took the extra break to rest up and prepare for the Tim Tebow offense. The plan worked, as the Pats defense stymied pretty much everything the Broncos tried to throw at them, and Tebow was running for his life all game as Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich completely abused Denver's offensive line.
The extra break also figures to help both the Packers and the Ravens today, who will both get tough tests against the Giants and the Texans.
The Packers needed the extra break to get healthy, and they seem to be doing that just in time. Tackles Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga will both be back to bolster the line against the Giants' stout defensive front, and running back James Starks will be back to try and have another impressive playoff performance.
The Ravens will benefit greatly from home-field advantage, and they likely used the break for extra preparation against Arian Foster, while possibly drawing up some trick plays to get the ball rolling against Houston's tough defense.
Both teams will be rested up and playing in the most comfortable of confines, and that extra week of practice will be invaluable against a couple of underdogs gunning for the upset.
Expect the layoffs to play big factors in wins for both the Ravens and the Packers.