The 2012 NFL playoffs move onto the divisional round this weekend where we'll see four games between the final eight teams remaining. Three of the games have point spreads of a touchdown or more while the Saints are three-point road favorites over the 49ers.
It's easy to pick the favorite to win. It's significantly harder to find the upsets. But that's what SB Nation's NFL playoffs roundtable wants to tackle: Which teams should be on upset watch this weekend?
Two of us pick the Packers and one of us picks the Saints. Our roundtable participants are SB Nation NFL bloggers David Fucillo and Jason Garrison, as well as myself, SBNation.com's NFL editor.
David Fucillo: I've got to go with the Saints being on upset watch this weekend. They're headed on the road but they are the first road favorite in a divisional round game since the Dallas Cowboys were favored over the Carolina Panthers back in 1996. A lot of folks think the Saints high-flying offense will overwhelm the 49ers and set up an inevitable Packers-Saints rematch.
The 49ers are more known for their rush defense, but their pass defense combines several elements necessary to slow down Drew Brees. They bring a potent pass rush from primarily their front four pass rushers. This allows them to drop six and seven men in coverage to protect against the deep ball. If the 49ers pass rush can get some hits on Drew Brees early, they can get him thinking about the hits and slow him down. The 49ers can turn to their power rushing attack on offense against a Saints defense that has struggled in allowing 5.0 yards per carry this season. The 49ers likely can't win a shootout with the Saints, but they have enough offense if they can slow down the Saints passing attack.
Jason Garrison: Of the teams favored to win this weekend, the Green Bay Packers should be on upset watch. That may sound strange considering they're hosting a team that finished the season with a 9-7 record, but after watching the Giants dismantle the Atlanta Falcons, I think it's very possible. In fact, I think the Giants just need to do three things, and do them well, in order for them to win in Green Bay.
They need their running game to dicate the pace of the game and keep Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines for long periods of time, Eli Manning needs to take advantage of the Packers low-ranked pass defense with his talented group of receivers and they need to pressure Rodgers when he's on the field. Against the Falcons, the Giants gained over 170 yards on the ground, constantly pressured Matt Ryan and Manning had a good game. If they can repeat that performance they can win.
Joel Thorman: Considering I picked the Giants to win this weekend, I'll say the Packers should be on upset watch. We've seen a similar script play out before where the Giants barely lose late in the season to an undefeated team (Patriots) and come back to beat them in the playoffs. The way to beat Aaron Rodgers is to have a solid pass rush that can disrupt his momentum while still being able to put enough guys in coverage. The Giants can do that. They have the formula to beat the Packers.
Now, having a chance to beat them on paper is different from going out and actually doing it. The Giants are 'dogs for a reason. They just have to go out and do it.
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