New Orleans' unstoppable offense meets San Francisco's immovable defense, the Giants seek revenge on the Packers, and Tim Tebow tries to keep his magic playoff run alive.
The best weekend of the NFL season is upon us, as the eight remaining teams pair up in the divisional round of the playoffs. Let's face it, if it weren't for that Steelers-Broncos game, last week's wild-card round would have been a complete dud, because the Texans blew out the Bengals, the Saints blew out the Lions, and the Giants blew out the Falcons. The Pittsburgh-Denver game had the makings of a blowout, too, with the Broncos ahead 20-6 at halftime. But the Steelers are a championship-level club that doesn't roll over, and they charged back in the second half to at least force overtime—an overtime you probably missed if you went to the bathroom. Ben Roethlisberger and the defending AFC champions are now out of the tournament, but the divisional round still features an astonishing four quarterbacks who've won Super Bowl MVPs. And who knows, maybe Tim Tebow will earn the honor this year. (Go ahead, bet against it.) Here are the key storylines to this weekend's games.
New Orleans (3 seed, NFC) at San Francisco (2 seed, NFC), 4:30 p.m. Saturday on Fox
This is San Francisco's first playoff game since 2002. If this proud franchise—winners of an NFC-high five Super Bowls—are to attain any semblance of their past stature, they'll need to stop a New Orleans offense that has scored 45 points in three straight games and decimated the Lions 45-28 in the wild-card game last Saturday, amassing a playoff-record 626 total yards and scoring on five straight second-half possessions. Unlike Detroit, though, San Francisco has a staunch defense. Led by All-Pro defensive end Justin Smith, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and inside linebacker and perennial Pro Bowler Patrick Willis, the Niners were among the league leaders in scoring defense, rushing defense, sacks, and turnovers. They won't be eviscerated like the Lions, especially playing in their own outdoor building, where the swirling San Francisco winds might present a problem to the Saints and MVP candidate Drew Brees, who threw for a league-record 5,476 yards this year. The Saints were 11-1 playing indoors, but only 3-2 outdoors, losing to Green Bay and Tampa Bay (a terrible team), while beating the mediocre teams of Jacksonville, Carolina, and Tennessee.