We have another glorious weekend of playoffs to enjoy this weekend, with four games and plenty of storylines to enjoy as we inch nearer to that awful time known as the offseason. Here's what to watch for:
How the Packers will deal with the week's events: Green Bay was hit with tragedy this week as offensive coordinator Joe Philbin's 21-year-old son died. The games must go on on, and the Packers still have to play the Giants to continue their march towards repeating as Super Bowl champions. How they handle the emotion of the week will have an effect on the game.
Brady vs. Tebow, Part Deux: It was the New England Patriots who stopped the Denver Broncos' streak of improbable comebacks during the regular season and set off a string of three losses to end the Broncos' season. Revenge would never be on the mind of Tim Tebow because vengeance belongs to the Lord, but getting a win over the Patriots would prove that the Broncos are more than just comeback kids. To get a win this time, the defense will need to do a better job of stopping Tom Brady and the Patriots' multifaceted running attack. The Patriots dropped 451 yards on the Broncos during the regular season. If they do that again this Saturday, even the finest of comebacks can't help Denver.
Stopping the Brees: San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh joked that he has nightmares about the New Orleans Saints' offense. There's good reason for those bad dreams, as New Orleans has an endless supply of offensive weapons, including record-breaking quarterback Drew Brees, running backs Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas, and tight end Jimmy Graham. They lead the league in yards per game at 467.1 and in third-down conversions at 56.7 percent.
In their loss to the Saints, the Lions were unable to slow down this offensive machine. The 49ers will attempt it with continued pressure by the defensive line, led by Justin Smith, who had 7.5 sacks in the regular season. Linebacker Aldon Smith, who led the team with 14 sacks, will try to help in putting Brees on his back.
As the Coaches Turn: As mentioned earlier this week, Josh McDaniels was hired by the Patriots to take the place of Bill O'Brien, who will soon depart New England's staff to coach at Penn State. McDaniels was fired as head coach of the Broncos late in 2010, and knows a little bit about their personnel. It doesn't concern Denver's staff, now headed by John Fox, but it will be interesting to see how the dynamic between coaches match up come Saturday.
Battles of the Defense: When the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens meet up, it will be a showcase of two of the stingiest teams still alive in the playoffs. The Ravens allowed a scant 288.9 yards per game in the regular season, and the Texans gave up just 285.7 per game. Because of these effective defenses, the story of this game will be told by which offense can break through. Will Joe Flacco and Ray Rice power the more experienced Ravens to the win, or will Arian Foster and rookie T.J. Yates continue the Texans' dream season?
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