"To me it's not
where,' it's morewho,' `' Broncos coach John Fox said. "They are a very good football team; they've got a lot of playoff experience. We will have to deal with crowd noise; that's always a little bit of an issue but it won't be the first time this season we've had to do that. It'll be a huge challenge and when you get to this point in the playoffs that's kind of how it always is."
New England snapped Denver's six-game winning streak with a 41-23 win in the Mile High City a month ago. So the Patriots are plenty familiar with Tebow and company.
"It's always challenging to go up against an offense like this because you can do so many things," Pro Bowl nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. "You can't just say,
When they get in this formation, this is going to happen,' orWhen they do this, look out for (this).' You can't do that because you can be attacked and blindsided from so many different ways.
"This game is going to come down to disciplined football for us."
The Patriots always seem to be hosting January games in Foxborough, ever since the "Tuck Rule" win over the Raiders 10 years ago. Because recently they've been vulnerable at home in those situations, and because Denver (9-8) has performed some, uh, miracles, there's a line of thought that the Broncos will surprise the Patriots on Saturday night.
The oddsmakers don't think so: The Patriots are 13 1/2-point favorites, a massive line for the playoffs.
We agree with the oddsmakers.
BEST BET: PATRIOTS, 38-20
New Orleans (minus 3 1/2) at San Francisco, Saturday
San Francisco has the best defense in the conference, if not the league, a versatile group that can cover, rush the passer, and force turnovers. The 49ers had a plus-28 turnover margin, were tops in takeaways (38) and fumble recoveries (15). New Orleans was minus-3.
The Niners also protect the ball better than anyone, with 10 giveaways all season.
"It's special being in the playoffs," Niners coach Jim Harbaugh said. "I want them to feel that, understand what this is all about. You get one shot. They've earned a right to be here. But understand that we're not trying to get every ounce of pleasure out of this thing. We're focused on what we need to do and that's prepare for the New Orleans Saints."
Take the experience - and the better offense in this high-scoring season.
Houston (plus 7 1/2) at Baltimore, Sunday
And take the defense in this one. Of course, both teams have solid units.
Just well enough, we say.
What also could - and will - happen is Rodgers still making enough plays for the defending champions Packers (15-1) to squeeze through.
Against spread: 2-2 (overall 128-109-5); straight up 2-2 (overall 171-89).
Best Bet: 3-15 against spread, 12-6 straight up.
Upset Special: 11-7 against spread, 8-10 straight up.