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Thursday 2 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Jack Dempsey/AP/Press Association Images Tom Brady (left) and Tim Tebow meet after the Patriots beat the Broncos in Denver last month.
# NFL
The Redzone: Can the Broncos out-Fox the Patriots?
All eight division winners are through to the divisional round of the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Now it’s time for Steven O’Rourke to pick his final four.

New Orleans Saints @ San Francisco 49ers

Saturday, 9.30pm (Irish time)

AS PREDICTED, THE New Orleans Saints came through a high-scoring wildcard match up with the Detroit Lions last weekend.

This week, however, the Saints must go on the road and, perhaps, more importantly, outdoors, to take on the NFC West winning San Francisco 49ers.

One of the reasons I didn’t pick Drew Brees as my regular season MVP, despite breaking Dan Marino’s long-standing passing record, is because he’s a very different player when not in a dome.

This season, the Saints have an 11-1 record indoors, averaging 38.6 points and 482.2 yards per game with a turnover differential (the difference between turnovers committed and forced) of +3.

Outdoors, the Saints are 3-2, averaging just 25.8 points and 462.8 yards per game with a turnover differential of -6.

It’s a significant difference and, to make matters worse, this weekend they face one of the NFL’s stingiest defences; the 49ers giving up just 308 yards per game.

However, San Francisco are ranked just 16th against the pass and so can’t rely solely on their defence to win this game. Instead, Alex Smith must manage the clock very carefully, limiting the Saints’ scoring opportunities.

Verdict: It all comes down to the clock. If the 49ers can keep the Saints offence off the field for 33 minutes or more, they’ll win. The Saints are riding a hot streak but they did lose to both the Rams and Buccaneers this year so are anything but a sure thing. Therefore, 49ers by 3.

Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots

Sunday, 1am (Irish time)

I’m going to give you some statistics about a quarterback who played last week.

This play-caller completed just 10 of 21 passes, was successful with only three of ten 3rd down attempts and scored just one touchdown in four visits to the redzone.

99 times out of 100 you’re going to tell me that quarterback lost the game. As soon as I tell you it was Tim Tebow, you know he didn’t.

Unfortunately for Tebow fans, their man is going to have to improve significantly on those stats if Denver is to emerge victorious in Foxborough.

That said, the Patriots defence is ranked 31 places below the Steelers defence Denver beat last Sunday. However, the Patriots are unlikely to play with the same reckless abandon as Pittsburgh and are sure have some deep safety help this weekend.

Also going against the Broncos is the fact that only four times since 1990 have a team that played a Sunday night playoff game, come back and won the following Saturday and only once has that team gone on to win the Super Bowl.

(For the curious amongst you they were the 1992 Bufallo Bills, 2008 Baltimore Ravens and the1995 and 2010 Green Bay Packers)

However, they do have Tim Tebow and I’ve given up trying to make sense of anything that happens when he is on the field.

Verdict: The Patriots haven’t won a playoff game since 2007, a long time for a team of this quality, and you know ‘the hoodie’ will want to rectify that. However, because I’ve promised to put up a picture of myself Tebowing if the Broncos win, you just know it’s going to happen. In a normal world, Patriots by 6. In this crazy Tebow world, Broncos by 5.

Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens

Sunday, 6pm (Irish time)

If I was to offer you Andre Johnson, Arian Foster and Ben Tate or Anquan Boldin, Ray Rice and Ricky Williams which group would you take?

It’s obvious you’d take the Texans trio. However, the Texans are 7.5 point underdogs in this game and are a massive 40/1 to win the Super Bowl when you can get the Ravens at 15/2.

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Yes, the Ravens are the higher ranked team but they lost to the Jaguars and Seahawks this year. The Texans defence are better than both of those teams and are riding the emotions of their first ever playoff run. That has to count for something.

Verdict: If Ray Rice gets more than 100 yards, the Ravens will win this game. If, as has happened a number of times this season, Baltimore somehow forget how good Ray Rice is and try to win the game with Joe Flacco, they will lose. Texans by 7+

New York Giants @ Green Bay Packers

Sunday, 9.30 pm (Irish time)

This is the third game of the weekend that features a rematch of a regular season fixture and is the third game where I’ll be predicting a reversal of the original result.

Yes, Sunday will see the end of the Green Bay Packers title reign.

I’m joking, of course. Did you see Aaron Rodgers face when Matt Flynn put six touchdowns on the Detroit Lions? Now imagine how much he wants to put 50 points on the board and shut everyone up.

The Giants have had a very good season and have won, virtually, three playoff games in a row. However, I’m not a huge believer in momentum – look at the Texans and Broncos last weekend – and believe class will always come through.

Verdict: This was a very close encounter when the teams met earlier this season with Rodgers pulling out the drive of the year to win the game. It won’t be as close this time around. Packers mean business, so Green Bay by 10+

Steven O’Rourke is the offensive co-ordinator of Tullamore PhoenixAmerican Football Club, winners of the IAFL DV8s national title in 2010 and 2011. Tullamore are always recruiting new players so, if you’d like to play football and not just read about it, Steven would love to hear from you.

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