NFL Divisional Playoffs: Giants stun Pack, Ravens defense prevails, Tebow's Biblical inspiration fails Broncos, Niners win one for the ages
1) Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The great man (pictured) would have turned 83 Sunday. 2) You can still vote in our Jeff Fisher-decision Dolphins poll in post directly below this. 3) Enjoyed Lana Del Ray on SNL, sort of avante garde/creepy, maybe kindred with Florence (of the Machine). 4) Click here for Sunday's Random Evidence notes column. 5) Micky Arison's Carnival cruise line owns the Costa ship in the news for the wrong reasons, putting in perspective those three Heat losses in a row. 6) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]
AFC/NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES: Initial thoughts. AFC: Ravens at Patriots. See New England favored by around 6 points. Gut feeling that Pats win and cover. NFC: Not many saw this, but Giants at 49ers. Think San Fran will be favored by the token 3 points. Too close to call for me at this point.
NFL DIVISIONAL-ROUND PLAYOFFS: [Game capsules below] I had 49ers upsetting Saints outright and Broncos, Texans and Giants all losing but all covering the spread this weekend in NFL Divisional Round playoff games. Click on Divisional Gems for all our latest picks, and on Being Tebow for our related NFL column on the most talked-about player of these playoffs and perhaps of this season. I ended up going 3-1 straight-up for the weekend and 3-1 vs. the spread. (I'll take that, I guess). I'd be lying if I said Tim Tebow didn't inspire my passing along the David Sipress cartoon at right, whose caption is, "First, I'd like to blame the Lord for causing us to lose today." Oh how I would pay to have heard Tebow say that last night, although I don't imagine he was in much of a jesting mood...
Giants 37, Packers 20: New York, New York! -- Did not see this. Saw NYG beating the spread, yeah, but not winning outright. Not against a 15-1 team at home. Props to the Biggies defense. Props to Eli Manning. Original post: OK we've had our token defensive battle for the day, now back to the crazy air show. It would not surprise me if Aaron Rodgers (pictured) and Eli Manning combined for 90 passes, 800 yards and 70 points. Buckle up. Ultimately you can give me the better team that also happens to enjoy a bigger-than-typical home field advantage, although I like 'dog Biggies to cover the line. Pick: Packers, 34-30.
Ravens 20, Texans 13: De-fense, de-fense... -- Game went as expected, with Ravens defense ultimating dominating a point-shy game. Original post: This probably is the least sexy of the weekend's four games, but in terms of competitiveness it'll be a lot closer to Saints-Niners than to Broncos-Pats, guaranteed. Arian Foster vs. Ray Rice is about as good as a running backs duel gets, and these certifiably are two of the top five defenses in the league. The other three Divisional Round games are airborne, pass-happy. This is the Old School game of the four, the one John Facenda's voice would most fit, and if you don't agree, Ray Lewis (pictured) will come and beat the crap out of you. Like Crows at home, outright, meaning I like Baltimore's defense vs. a rookie quarterback, but I still think the 7.5-point line is too big. Pick: Ravens, 19-17.
Patriots 45, Broncos 10: Tim Tebaawww -- Heard on TV yesterday that before the game Tebow inspired his team with the familiar old Biblical bon mot about David vs. Goliath. Hey how'd that work out, Timmy? What happened was, the Broncos were all motivated and moved and then David went out and got crushed under Goliath's gigantic sandal. Tom "Goliath" Brady was great. Six touchdown passes. "David" Tebow was not, inviting all the old doubts about his NFL future. Tebow completed 9 of 26 passes. Those damn slingshots never were very accurate. Sorry I thought Denver would beat the spread. Guess I bought too much of the fairy tale. My proposed caption for the photo at right: Tebow: "At least I still have the Lord at my side." Brady: "Yeah but I've got the Lord and Giselle Bundchen at my side." Original post: Tebow this, Tebow that, Tebow the other. Whatever. This one comes down to Tom Brady, Bill Belichick off a bye and a mighty home-field advantage. Pick: Patriots, 31-20.
49ers 36, Saints 32: A game for the ages -- Wow. Just wow. What a fantastic game! (Yes, made all the better because I called it!). Saints go up late on a TD catch by UM's Jimmy Graham and then Niners win it on a TD catch by Vernon Davis, the brother of Dolphin Vontae. Little Alex Smith going pass for pass with mighty drew Brees when it counted. I try to avoid hyperbole, but this truly will be remembered as one of the greatest playoff games. (By the way, with Saints ahead 24-23 and 49ers driving inside the two-minute mark, I had a great chance to hit my predicted score exactly. That was when the scoreboard began to explode). Original post: Do I feel really good about thinking the Niners will win today? Um, no. It is tough picking against Drew Brees and that offense. But do I believe that San Fran actually will prevail? Yeah. N'Awlins isn't the same juggernaut on the road; all three of its losses have been away. This will be the best defense Brees has faced all season (Patrick Willis is pictured). Meanwhile, you can move and score on the Saints' defense, and I'm thinking Frank Gore will keep Brees off the field enough and that SF's defense will do the rest. Writing a big check here. Cover me, Jim Harbaugh. Pick: 49ers, 26-24.