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article imageNFL Divisional playoffs look to be surprising, explosive

By Sean Fraser     Jan 10, 2012 in Sports
After a shootout in the Superdome, a beatdown in the Meadowlands, and a "miracle" at Mile High, the NFL Divisional playoff games have the potential to be memorable.
Some of the teams that survived the first round of the playoffs were not expected to. Atlanta was supposed to give NY Giants quarterback Eli Manning a rough day at the office, but Manning cruised, thanks to his offensive line and bruising running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Big Ben and the Steelers were supposed to shut down Tim Tebow and the Broncos' running game, but didn't expect Tebow to throw deep downfield almost every pass attempt.
With Atlanta and perennial favorite Pittsburgh out in the first round, what do the next round's games look like?
The New Orleans Saints are traveling to the West Coast to take on the NFC #2 seed, the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners had the best season in a long time, finishing 13-3 under first year coach Jim Harbaugh. QB Alex Smith had the best year of his career, throwing over 3,100 yards, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. RB Frank Gore ran for over 1,200 yards and six scores, and the receiving combo of Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis combined for over 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns. According to Steve Wyche at NFL.com, the Saints will have to rely on their running game in order for QB Drew Brees to get his passing rhythm.
Saturday's late game features the AFC's top seed, the New England Patriots, against the unconventional and surprising Denver Broncos. QB Tim Tebow put up 316 yards in passing against Pittsburgh, who seemed to want to defend the run more than the pass. The Steelers did come back to tie the game after being down almost the entire game, but Tebow's 80 yard pass to WR Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime sealed the deal, which also earned Tebow a cool $250,000. New England had one of the worst secondaries in the league during the season, and based on Tebow's last performance, Denver might look to exploit that.
The Houston Texans took full advantage of the absence of Peyton Manning to secure their first division title as well as their first playoff appearance in team history. This Sunday at 1 PM they will square off against the Baltimore Ravens, who secured the AFC North and the #2 seed. The Texans rely heavily on their running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate, who will be trying to break through one of the best defenses in the league. Baltimore has their own beast at running back, Ray Rice, who was the second leading rusher in the league with 1.364 yards and 12 touchdowns. This game has the makings of a low scoring, knockdown, drag out defensive struggle.
Late Sunday afternoon, the NFC's #1 seed, the Green Bay Packers, take on the NY Giants. After the Giants shellacked the Falcons 24-2 in the Wild Card round, they will now face the reigning Super Bowl champs in chilly Lambeau Field. Last year, the Packers had a slew of injuries, but overcame them to win the Super Bowl. This year, the team is healthy and looking unstoppable. Both Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers threw for over 4,500 yards in the regular season and had a steady running game to back them up. The weather might be a factor in this game, but with these two pass-happy teams, the cold will not matter.
The winners of each game will move on to the Conference Championship game to determine who plays in Super Bowl XLVI.
More about NFL, Nfl playoffs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Denver broncos
 
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