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Bob Christ’s breakdown of Pro Football Playoffs January 13, 2012 11:16 AM by Bob Christ

Last week’s sweep by the host clubs in the first playoff round marked the first time since 2000 all the division champs went 4-0 SU vs. the wild cards and also were 4-0 ATS.

This week, the home squads have an even more powerful edge, for not only are they coming off the customary bye awarded Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, but they are a cumulative 30-2 at home this season û with Baltimore and Green Bay having perfect marks.

But curiously, over the past six seasons home squads in the divisional round are only 12-12 SU. In fact, in the 2003 and 2006 postseasons, the hosts were 0-4 ATS.

Now for a closer look at the divisional-round games:

PRO FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS

SATURDAY, Jan. 14

Denver (9-8) at New England (13-3)

Time: 1:30 p.m. PT

Line: Patriots by 13½ (50)

Weather: Low-20s, clear

Facts: New England was 1-2 vs. playoff teams in 2011, winning 41-23 at Denver in Week 15. The Broncos were outscored by 81 points this season, second worst margin ever for a playoff team. Denver had 252 yards rushing vs. the Patriots and still blown out. Patriots TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski teamed for 13 catches and 179 yards vs. Denver. Tim Tebow averaged an NFL season-high 15 yards a drop-back last week vs. Pittsburgh. A week earlier his norm was 2.1 vs. KC, second worst.

Analysis: The Broncos, off a 29-23 win vs. Pittsburgh , have had three losses that exceeded 25 points this season -- three more than the other Final 8 squads combined. And, Denver is on short rest vs. a bye team led by QB Tom Brady, which was 2-1 as a double-digit choice this season. In league postseason history, teams in this spot have gone 1-4 (SU & ATS) and have been outscored 169-62. It won’t help that Broncos defensive boss Dennis Allen picked this week to flirt with St. Louis about its head coach opening.

Forecast: Patriots 40, Broncos 14

New Orleans (14-3) at San Francisco (13-3)

Time: 5 p.m. PT

Line: Saints by 3½ (47)

Weather: High 50s, clear

Facts: The 49ers, 7-0-1 ATS at home, have a turnover edge of +28, second best in NFL history. New Orleans , behind QB Drew Brees and the most productive offense in NFL annals, has scored at least 42 points in its past four games, all indoors. By contrast, SF has scored that much just once in the past eight seasons. 49ers QB Alex Smith was sacked a league-high 44 times in the regular season. The Saints, though, have had only two sacks their past three games covering 131 drop-backs.

Analysis: Things have turned somewhat sour for SF since its 9-1 start. For instance, the Niners gave up nine sacks to Baltimore on Thanksgiving. And what’s with RB Frank Gore? His production has dropped from 4.9 yards a carry and five 100-yard rushing games in the first half of the season to a norm of 53.6 a game and 3.5 a carry the final eight games. Defensively, through 14 games, only one team eclipsed 100 rushing yards. In the final two immensely important games, bottomfeeders Seattle and St. Louis both surpassed 100.

Forecast: Saints 38, 49ers 19

PRO FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS

SUNDAY, Jan. 15

Houston (11-6) at Baltimore (12-4)

Time: 10 a.m. PT

Line: Ravens by 7½ (36)

Weather: Low 30s, cloudy

Facts: The Texans are catching the Ravens coming off a bye for the second time. In Week 6, Houston was a 29-14 loser at Baltimore despite a +2 turnover edge and with Matt Schaub at QB. Now third-teamer T.J. Yates will have to worry about DB Ed Reed and LB Terrell Suggs. These days brittle Texans WR Andre Johnson is questionable with a knee injury. Baltimore ’s Joe Flacco is only the 18th-rated passer, but he had a better rating than his opponent in 12 of 16 starts.

Analysis: It seemed the Texans were ready for Disney World after treating the home fans to a 31-10 win over Cincinnati last week in their first-ever playoff game. That energy is unlikely to travel to noisy Baltimore. Although the Texans have the league’s second-rated defense, Ravens RB Ray Rice, had 161 yards from scrimmage vs. Houston earlier. Plus, WR Anquan Boldin (probable, knee) is back after missing two weeks. He had a season-high eight catches for 132 yards in that previous meeting.

Forecast: Ravens 26, Texans 10

N.Y. Giants (10-7) at Green Bay (15-1)

Time: 1:30 p.m. PT

Line: Packers by 7½ (53)

Weather: Mid-20s, cloudy

Facts: Green Bay has been outgained by an average of 6.3 yards a game this season. Its defensive yield of 411.6 yards an outing is the worst in the league over the past 28 seasons. When QB Eli Manning directed the Giants to the world title four seasons ago, he was the NFL’s 25th-rated passer. Now he’s No. 7. GB’s Aaron Rodgers is No. 1. In January 2008 the Giants beat the host Packers 23-20 in OT as an 8-point underdog in the NFC title game. The temp at kickoff was 1 below, the third-coldest game on record.

Analysis: Provided Manning doesn’t morph into ex-NYG quarterback Y.A. Tittle, who heaved five INTs and generated zero total points against the Packers in the 1961 and 1962 title games, the Giants should find smooth sledding against a defense that has yielded an absurd 446 yards a game its past seven outings. On the other side, the Giants’ pass rush has created havoc down the stretch and likely will confound the Packers’ battered offensive line and put some hits on Rodgers.

Forecast: Giants 30, Packers 27

Last week: 1-3 vs. spread; 1-3 straight up

Season: 133-117-9 ATS (.532): 151-108 SU (.583).

 

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