Our Big NFL Playoff Predictions

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Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic), and Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic) look ahead to this weekend's pro football games.


Hey guys,

With a scandal- and corruption-besotted college football season finally, mercifully behind us—has any championship squad ever served as a better unwitting metaphor for the state of entire sport than Nick Saban's death-by-defensive-asphixiation-and-or-sheer-boredrom Alabama crew?—it's time to focus our attention on the games in which the players at least get paid to smash their brains into the equivalent of a  mouse embalmed in Mountain Dew.

So, yeah: it's NFL playoff time!

There's a game between Baltimore and Houston, which is just swell if you live in Baltimore or Houston. But let's talk glamour: Tom Brady. Versus Tim Tebow. Otherwise know as the game that will send the great-great-great-grandchild of a sports television network executive to college, and on to a career in personal philanthropy. It's almost inconceivable to think that the Denver Broncos will stay within two touchdowns of the New England Patriots. Not when the Pats are playing at home; not when Brady is a proven playoff commodity;  not when Josh McDaniels, the man who made Tebow a Bronco, is sneakily rejoining the Pats' coaching staff; definitely not when New England lit up Denver's vaunted defense less than six weeks ago. 

On the other hand: Everything Tebow does is almost inconceivable. Was Kyle Orton getting Twitter shout-outs from Lady Gaga? I'm not a betting man, but if I were, football's most popular player would force me into early gambling retirement. Tebow has to be the greatest no ... yes! player in pro football history, and considering Brett Favre played for nearly two decades, that's saying a lot.

Next is my favorite matchup of the weekend: New Orleans versus San Francisco, which pits the loneliest punter in pro football (the Saints' Thomas Morestead) against a run-often, defense-first squad that seems to have forgotten what decade it is. In a way, this game is a strange inversion of the old school showdowns between the high-scoring Joe Montana-era 49ers and the hard-hat linebackin' Dome Patrol Saints; this time around, it's San Francisco that wants to grind things out. Also, I find it rather amusing that people are just now noticing that Drew Brees is having a pretty, pretty, pretty good year, a phenomenon that speaks to just how inflated NFL passing numbers have become.

Speaking of which: Aaron Rogers leads mostly-dominant Green Bay against the suddenly-surging New York Giants. I don't think the Giants have much of a chance; then again, I didn't think they had much of a chance facing a similarly high-octane opponent in the 2008 Super Bowl. 

Jake, what are you looking forward to seeing this weekend—and unlike me, will you man up and make some predictions?

–Patrick

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Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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