Pro Football: NFL Divisional picks: Patriots, Saints, Packers and Ravens will advance

January 11, 2012

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

One of last weekend’s NFL Wild Card games was just that — wild. Tim Tebow and his Broncos teammates shocked the Pittsburgh Steelers 11 seconds into the overtime period. On the first play from scrimmage in the extra period, Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas on an 80-yard touchdown pass and defeated the Steelers 29-23. The win was the fourth overtime victory for Tebow and the Broncos this season.

Their win earned them a trip to New England this Saturday, Jan. 14, to battle the Patriots. Now, the question is, can Tebow’s magic continue? I’m saying the rabbit has left the hat for the Broncos, and the Patriots will make them disappear.

The Patriots have had an extra week of rest and are much healthier going into this game than the Steelers were last Sunday. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be playing on two healthy ankles and won’t be a sitting duck for the Broncos’ defense. I look for the Patriots to end Tebow’s storybook season and send the Broncos back to Mile High Stadium on a low. I’m predicting a Patriots win over the Broncos 38-17.

The other game this Saturday, Jan. 14, features a pair of teams with identical 13-3 regular-season records butting heads. The New Orleans Saints will be in San Francisco. The Saints destroyed the Detroit Lions in the Wild Card game 45-28.

I don’t think they’ll have that easy of a time against the 49ers, but I do believe Drew Brees and his Saints will continue their march through the playoffs. I’m predicting a 10-point win for the Saints, 41-31.

The Green Bay Packers (15-1) host the New York Giants (9-7) Sunday, Jan. 15. The Packers were resting last week while the Giants were eliminating the Falcons 24-2.

It should be a good match-up between Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers. Both quarterbacks are capable of putting up big numbers. These two teams should easily combine for 80 or more points. I’m predicting a home win for the Pack, 49-42.

The other Sunday, Jan. 15, game is in Baltimore. The Ravens host the visiting Texans. The Texans are coming off an impressive Wild Card win over the Bengals, 31-10. The Ravens used the week to rest up and heal some wounds.

They should be back at full strength and ready to go against the Texans. I’m taking the Ravens at home by a touchdown, 28-21.

I was 2-2 in the Wild Card games. I got both Saturday games correct, and then turned around and blew it on Sunday. This weekend, I hope my Sunday is better than last, and my Saturday stays the same.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.

From the Jan. 11-17, 2012, issue

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