NFL Hall of Famer and New York Jets legend Joe Namath will join Yahoo! Sports and the Shutdown Corner Blog during the playoffs to break down the key games, players and moments each weekend. Make sure you like the Official Joe Namath page on Facebook and visit the Broadway Joe site for plenty of other insight and gear from Namath. This is what Namath told Yahoo! Sports about the divisional round.
Wow, what a weekend of playoff football we had — and what a weekend lays ahead my friends. It is interesting to me that three of the four games this weekend feature two teams who met in the regular season.
That becomes an underlying issue this weekend. Regardless of who won the first time around, either team can come out on top. And actually, it may more beneficial being on the losing end from a motivational standpoint.
Take the New England Patriots hosting the Denver Broncos. The Broncos did have a lead on the Pats and played well against one of the best teams in the NFL. This should be a mental edge for the Broncos.
In that game, the Patriots played such a strong second half and that would give a normal team confidence. Here's some news for everyone out there: New England isn't a normal team and they won't fall into that trap of overconfidence. Those boys up there missed out the last two years in the playoffs and that is going to keep them really hungry.
On the other sideline, Denver will have an urgency edge. The Denver players can be confident in thinking they can win because they know what they have to do to eliminate the mistakes from last time. The defense talked about missing tackles, especially on those short crossing patterns. Champ Bailey said that they need to cut down on these errors so they know what they need to do.
Having watched the last game, the key to me is that the Broncos need to control the clock and they can with the running game they have; New England's defense hasn't won any awards this year and the Broncos can run on them. They need to control the clock, keep the ball moving and limit the chances that Tom Brady and that potent offense have.
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I do believe the Broncos can win this game — I know some of you out there are ready to call me out on this as I picked against them to lose last week, but anything can happen. It's the NFL playoffs.
The Giants can win their game against the Green Bay Packers, too. New York went through that streak of losing four straight games to four very good opponents and they've rebounded. The Giants are sky high right now and playing with confidence. You hear Jason Pierre-Paul guarantee a win? I like the way that kid thinks!
With Green Bay having that bye, it's not too uncommon for teams stumble because you're just not as sharp with time off. Aaron Rodgers has them pushing for perfection on every play and the Packers practice very well though so I don't think that'll be a factor. What may be a factor is that Green Bay could start cold with the temperature up there and the Giants have to capitalize on that.
The Giants can win this game and I'll tell you what, you have the guys from that Super Bowl team that know how to win on the road. They were road warriors a couple years ago when they went on that run and those voices in the locker room remember that win against Green Bay in the playoffs that sent them on toward their Super Bowl win over the Patriots.
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Plus, they feel like they're playing their best ball right now — they're playing like a team and that's tremendous.
Joe's Game to Watch: New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers — OK, I admit it, I will be watching all these games, but I'm really interested in seeing the San Francisco 49ers play this game. They've been remarkable in their lack of errors. How has Alex Smith thrown just five interceptions this year? They don't turn the ball over. They're playing such sound football. The New Orleans Saints are tremendous — and Drew Brees makes you say: "Wow!" But this 49ers defense makes you come to work.
One thing that worries me is the playoff experience. Coach Jim Harbaugh has done a tremendous job, but on the other side Sean Payton has all this playoff experience, oodles of it. And I'm going to tell you something, oodles counts for a lot in the playoffs.
The X Factor: The Houston Texans finally lived up to their hype this year and T.J. Yates, their young quarterback, has been solid filling in. But this game, he has to be big-time successful in leading that offense. He will only do as well as the running game and it must get established. If he can be sharp, they can beat Baltimore. We expect the other quarterbacks this weekend -- even Alex Smith who wasn't viewed among the greats before this year -- to be good because they've done it all season. The turnover factor is huge and at this stage of the season, most of the teams are pretty sharp in terms of that. He's got to have a game where he is sharp and limits mistakes.
New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers — I said this was my game to watch and now you'll find out who I like. I know it doesn't make sense going against the experience of the Saints, but with the 49ers at home and with the way they protect the ball, I think they'll win. I like that Frank Gore kid, too. Oh baby, he's a player.
Houston Texans vs. Baltimore Ravens — Going into that daggum house the Ravens have, it's a huge disadvantage for the Texans. That place rocks and gets behind them, doesn't it? I know one thing, Ray Lewis is going to have the crowd and his team fired up — and I for one will not pick against Ray Lewis.
New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers — I like the balance of New York here. The Packers, well, I'm not sold on their defense. If Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs can keep the ball away from Green Bay, then the Giants can control the game. This Giants defense is playing much better now than it was a few weeks ago in that 38-35 loss to the Packers. I pick the Giants.
Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots — Realistically, everything is in the Patriots' favor. They also remember their playoff losses in recent years and that's been painful. New England will come out with a vengeance and control the game. The Broncos have to be flawless and Tim Tebow, well, he needs to be playing at a high level for this one. I don't think Denver can win.
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