More football! Let’s get to it.
New Orleans over San Francisco – This game is a lot closer than people think. The Saints for whatever reason routinely struggle against the NFC West, and are not a great road team. San Francisco has the best defense in the NFC and are nearly impossible to run on (“nearly” thanks to Seattle!). But San Fran’s “weakness” is in the secondary and they’ve given up 300 and 400 yard games to top QBs like Tony Romo and Michael Vick. Where they thrive is not giving up points when their backs are against the wall. They’ve only allowed 3 rushing touchdowns all season and have the league’s #1 scoring defense. I’m just not sure that San Francisco’s ho-hum offense can hang with New Orleans if the game becomes a shootout, which I think it will.
The Saints offense is based on precision and speed, whereas San Francisco is more of a workmanlike type of offensive team. David Akers set a record for most field goals made in a single-season, which tells you all you need to know about the Niners. They rely on clock-control, a strong rushing attack, and mistake-free football. Alex Smith only threw 5 INTs all season but he only threw 17 TD passes, so Jim Harbaugh has made it so that Smith is only forced to throw when he needs to.
New Orleans’ defense is very aggressive and I’m sure Gregg Williams will push to stop the Niners’ rushing attack and force Alex Smith into uncomfortable situations. I’m going with the Saints to be the antidote to San Fran’s fantastic D through their receivers, Jimmy Graham at TE, and the versatility of Darren Sproles in both the running and passing game.
New England over Denver – Thank you, ESPN. You have now made me root for the Patriots. The Broncos had a home game against this same Patriots team and were blown out. I wouldn’t be shocked if Denver got off to another hot start, as the Patriots have made a bad habit of falling behind 14-0 or 21-0 early in games, but once New England’s offense gets going you can’t stop it. Bill Belichick is just too smart a coach to completely botch a gameplan on how to beat Denver’s offense. If the Patriots get up by 10 or more before the 4th quarter then consider the game over.