The 49ers head into this weekend with a chance to enjoy some football as finally get an opponent for their divisional round contest at Candlestick Park next Saturday. This weekend features some great matchups that could provide a mix of defensive battles and wild shootouts. Given the relatively relaxing nature of this weekend for 49ers fans, I thought I'd take us into the weekend with a rundown of my wild card weekend picks. We're going strictly straight up for this.
Houston Texans vs. Cincinnati Bengals: The argument against the Texans basically comes down to QB T.J. Yates. I really don't know what Yates will bring to the table on Saturday, but as long as he can avoid stupid mistakes, this more of a bet on Arian Foster and Ben Tate. The two running backs averaged 4.78 yards per carry this season.
The Texans are not quite the same build as the 49ers, but there are some similarities with the strong defense and big rushing attack. And, even though Andy Dalton has had a strong rookie season, he is still a rookie. He may not mess things up this weekend, but I'm not quite ready to go all-in for this playoff game. I'll stick with Arian Foster & Co.
New Orleans Saints vs. Detroit Lions: I generally am open to a range of arguments, but you would be hard-pressed to convince me the Lions win this game. I don't know if any team is as hot as the Saints are in the Superdome. I don't know if they have what it takes to go on the road in the divisional and conference championship round, but in the Superdome, I don't care what question marks they have on defense.
Some would say Drew Brees could be due for a letdown, but other than that "argument" I don't see how the Lions can keep pace with the Saints attack. This is a team that gave up record-setting numbers to Matt Flynn in a game the Packers didn't need and the Lions did need to avoid the Saints. Matt Flynn may very well turn into the next great thing, but for now, he is three-career start Matt Flynn. That says all I need to know about this Lions defense.
New York Giants vs. Atlanta Falcons: This one is a bit of a tough call for me. Both teams bring serious deep threats to the table and I think this game will turn into a shootout. Michael Turner has had a better season than Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, but there has also been some inconsistency for him at times. The Falcons have a decent enough rush defense, but their pass defense is rather poor.
This pick actually comes down to my gut. I think the Giants are a better team (in spite of the game difference in record), but I think the Falcons win this game. I actually have no real reason for picking the Falcons over the Giants. It's just a hunch. This is usually where I start losing money, but thankfully I'm not wagering on this.
Denver Broncos vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: This is a game that could divide America. The Broncos stumbled down the stretch and sort of fell into the playoffs thanks to a Raiders Week 17 loss. The AFC West replaced the NFC West as the crappy division in the NFL (with the NFC East in the mix as well). It should be simple to say the Tebow "magic" is one and done this year.
And yet, I think the Broncos win this game without even factoring in Tebow. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a banged up team heading on the road to what will be a fairly raucous crowd. A Broncos upset rides on the Broncos defense and Willis McGahee more than anything else. If the offense can run a power rushing, ball control attack and the defense can get after a banged-up Ben Roethlisberger, this is an upset waiting to happen. I'll go with it to wrap up an upset-filled Sunday.
How do you see the wild card round shaking out?