New Orleans Saints (14-3) at San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
NEW ORLEANS minus 4
The scary-good Saints offence collides with the scary-good 49ers defence. New Orleans is 0-4 in road playoff games and faces a San Francisco defence that led the NFL in takeaways by a wide margin (plus-28). Let’s err on the side of caution.
The pick 49ERS
Denver Broncos (9-8) at New England Patriots (13-3)
DENVER plus 14
From battling back-up to postseason poobah, Tim Tebow will be forced to come down from his Rocky Mountain high this week, when the Broncos travel all the way to Foxborough to face the Patriots, the team that whipped Denver by 18 points in its own backyard a mere month ago.
The pick PATRIOTS
Houston Texans (11-6) at Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
HOUSTON plus 9
The Texans are undefeated in franchise playoff history (1-0), but now head outdoors at a chilly M&T Bank Stadium to face the rested Ravens (8-0 at home in 2011, 5-0 against Houston all-time). Baltimore’s fate rests with offensive co-ordinator Cam Cameron, who calls the plays and sometimes forgets running back Ray Rice is his best player.
The pick RAVENS
New York Giants (10-7) at Green Bay Packers (15-1)
NEW YORK plus 9
It’s hard to believe, but reigning Super Bowl most valuable player Aaron Rodgers has yet to take a playoff snap at legendary Lambeau Field. He gets his chance here, and will hope to go one better than predecessor Brett Favre, who handed the Giants the NFC title four years ago with an overtime interception.
The pick GIANTS
Wild-card round 1-3
Regular season 123-119-14