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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, January 13, 2012 at 9:57 AM

It's a rather strange-but-true factoid regarding the NFL Divisional Playoffs the past three years:

NFC/AFC #1 and #2 seeds are only a combined 6-6 SU (straight-up) and 6-6 ATS (against the spread) in this round and note the Las Vegas pointspread didn't have any say in any of these dozen games -- in other words, the six NFL Betting Favorites that won the games in this particular round won them with room to spare while the six underdog sides won the"whole game" and so keep that in mind as we grow closer-and-closer to the Saturday/Sunday action from San Francisco, Foxboro, Baltimore and Green Bay.

Meanwhile, if the top two seeds want to see for themselves than note last year NFC #1 seed Atlanta (a 1 ½-point favorite) was beaten 48-21 by Green Bay in this round while AFC #1 seed New England (a 9-point fav) was kayoed 28-21 in this round by the New York Jets;

In the 2009 season, AFC #2 seed San Diego (a 9-point favorite) was bopped by the Jets 17-14;

And go back to the 2008 NFL season and you'll remember the NFC's #1 and #2 seeds - the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers, respectively - were bested by Philadelphia and Arizona while the AFC's top-seeded Tennessee Titans lost to Baltimore.

In short, none of this week's highly-seeded teams that had last weekend off should consider this a proverbial walk-in-the-park 'cause it's anything but!

Now, here's a look at Saturday's NFC and AFC Divisional Playoff Games ...

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NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF GAME
#3 NEW ORLEANS (14-3) at #2 SAN FRANCISCO (13-3)
- 4:30 p.m. ET, Fox
No doubt we've heard all week long about how the New Orleans Saints - a 3 ½-point betting favorite for this clash in San Francisco -- have not"travelled well" while losing all three of their regular-season games on the road but how about the fact this is the Saints' first trip to the West Coast since last year's 41-36 NFC Wild Card Game loss in Seattle? Hmmm.

Okay, so the Saints claim that sour showing was put in the rear-view mirror a long time ago but consider N'Orleans has played the last four games this year indoors - the last three in a row at home in the Superdome and the Week 15 game in Minnesota - and you can see how the NFC South champs have gotten nice and cozy with the indoor settings.

Now, NFC West champ San Francisco wants to make this anything but cozy for the Saints - and the 49ers (who underwent a seven-game improvement in the won/loss standings since last season) enter this game having allowed a mere 10.9 points a game while going 7-1 SU and 7-0-1 ATS at home this year.

If the San Fran defense is gonna throw its weight around here than there's two main keys:

Get in the grill of Saints QB Drew Brees (NFL single-season record 5,476 yards passing with 46 TDs and 14 INTs) and rough him up when you have the opportunity and do everything in your power to keep all-purpose RB Darren Sproles from busting a big play. Sproles will be a major target here on screen passes and so the fundamentally-sound Niners linebacker corps starring Patrick Willis must make the stops immediately.

Spread Notes - New Orleans rolls into these NFC Divisional Playoffs riding a nine-game ATS winning streak and note the Saints overall are 13-4 versus the vig this year for a stunning .765 winning rate. However, N'Orleans is just 3-4 ATS in all post-season games under sixth-year head coach Sean Payton. On the flip side, San Francisco is a composite 11-4-1 against the odds this year (a sizzling .733 rate) and the 49ers are an electric 8-1-1 vig-wise when playing non-NFC West foes this season.

Note that all home teams below are in CAPS and the"W" or"L" or"T" in the Result category pertain to what the feature team did against the spread:

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

WK

FAV

SPREAD

DOG

SAINTS RESULT

#1

GREEN BAY

- 4.5

New Orleans

L 34-42

#2

NEW ORLEANS

- 4

Chicago

W 30-13

#3

NEW ORLEANS

- 3

Houston

W 40-33

#4

New Orleans

- 8.5

JACKSONVILLE

W 23-10

#5

New Orleans

- 6.5

CAROLINA

L 30-27

#6

New Orleans

- 6.5

TAMPA BAY

L 20-26

#7

NEW ORLEANS

- 13.5

Indianapolis

W 62-7

#8

New Orleans

- 13.5

ST. LOUIS

L 21-31

#9

NEW ORLEANS

- 8

Tampa Bay

W 27-16

#10

ATLANTA

- 1

New Orleans

W 26-23(ot)

#11

Bye Week

 

 

 

#12

NEW ORLEANS

- 7

NY Giants

W 49-24

#13

NEW ORLEANS

- 8

Detroit

W 31-17

#14

New Orleans

- 3.5

TENNESSEE

W 22-17

#15

New Orleans

- 7

MINNESOTA

W 42-20

#16

NEW ORLEANS

- 7

Atlanta

W 45-16

#17

NEW ORLEANS

- 7

Carolina

W 45-17

WC

NEW ORLEANS

- 10.5

Detroit

W 45-28

WC = Wild Card Game

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

WK

FAV

SPREAD

DOG

49ERS RESULT

#1

SAN FRANCISCO

- 6

Seattle

W 33-17

#2

Dallas

- 3

SAN FRANCISCO

T 24-27(ot)

#3

CINCINNATI

- 1

San Francisco

W 13-8

#4

PHILADELPHIA

- 10

San Francisco

W 24-23

#5

SAN FRANCISCO

- 3

Tampa Bay

W 48-3

#6

DETROIT

- 5

San Francisco

W 25-19

#7

Bye Week

 

 

 

#8

SAN FRANCISCO

- 9

Cleveland

W 20-10

#9

San Francisco

- 5

WASHINGTON

W 19-11

#10

SAN FRANCISCO

- 4

NY Giants

W 27-20

#11

SAN FRANCISCO

- 10

Arizona

W 23-7

#12

BALTIMORE

- 3

San Francisco

L 6-16

#13

SAN FRANCISCO

- 14

St. Louis

W 26-0

#14

SAN FRANCISCO

- 3.5

Arizona

L 19-21

#15

SAN FRANCISCO

- 3

Pittsburgh

W 20-3

#16

San Francisco

- 2.5

SEATTLE

L 19-17

#17

San Francisco

- 10.5

ST. LOUIS

L 34-27

 

AFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF GAME -
#4 DENVER (9-8) at #1 NEW ENGLAND (13-3)
- 8 p.m. ET, CBS
So, who is the"most unstoppable" player on the field here? Is it - as many folks presume - New England QB Tom Brady who threw for 5,235 yards with 39 TDs and 12 INTs this year or perhaps one of his amazing young TEs Ron Gronkowski (90 catches and 17 TDs) and/or the less-heralded Aaron Hernandez (a better-than-you-thought 79 receptions with 7 TDs)?

Or it is really Denver QB Tim Tebow now that he comes off last Sunday's 29-23 overtime win against 7-point favorite Pittsburgh in which the much-discussed and oft-ridiculed signal-caller threw four pass completions of 30-plus yards - now how many folks really thought that was possible even against a banged-up/depleted Steelers defense?

Hey, if Tebow had the opportunity to read up on things this week than he would have loved that wire-service story that claimed he"now has more playoff wins than the Patriots have in the last three seasons combined" ...gotta love it!

Tebow now challenges the NFL's 31st-ranked defense but one that has allowed only one opponent (see Buffalo back in Week 3) to score more than 30 points in a game and top target WR Demaryius Thomas (fresh off a 204-yard receiving game that included the thrilling 80-yard catch-and-run TD strike that won it in OT) must get some help from the likes of WR Eddie Royal and/or TE Daniel Fells here.

Brady - for his part - told media folks he wasn't thinking about last year's playoff loss in this round to the New York Jets or the fact the Pats have lost their last three post-season games dating back to 2007 but remember how the J-E-T-S confused him at times in last year's game and look for Broncos' head coach and defensive whiz John Fox to come up with some schemes here that sends a blitzer late or maybe drops a D-lineman into short coverage to handle slot WR Wes Welker (NFL-high 122 receptions this year).

P.S., don't make a big fuss about the fact the Pats just signed one-time assistant and one-time Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels - maybe that will help Brady a tad with OC Bill O'Brien set to bolt to Penn State but we claim it's not a real big deal.

Spread Notes - New England's 9-7 against the odds this year and note that includes a dead-even but vig-losing 5-5 ATS mark whenever laying 7-or-more points. The Patriots also have failed to cover their last six consecutive post-season games dating back to the 2006 playoffs. Meanwhile, Denver enters this prime-time affair at 8-8-1 spreadwise this 2011 season and the Broncos are 6-4 vig-wise as point-grabbers this season. Note that Denver - making its first playoff appearance since 2005 - has failed to cover three of its last four post-season wagers with the lone spread"W" coming in a 27-13 triumph over 3-point pup New England back in the '05 AFC Divisional Playoff round.

DENVER BRONCOS

WK

FAV

SPREAD

DOG

BRONCOS RESULT

#1

DENVER

- 3

Oakland

L 20-23

#2

DENVER

- 3

Cincinnati

L 24-22

#3

TENNESSEE

- 7

Denver

W 14-17

#4

GREEN BAY

- 12

Denver

L 23-49

#5

San Diego

- 3.5

DENVER

L 24-29

#6

Bye Week

 

 

 

#7

Denver

- 1

MIAMI

W 18-15(ot)

#8

Detroit

- 3

DENVER

L 10-45

#9

OAKLAND

- 7

Denver

W 38-24

#10

KANSAS CITY

- 3

Denver

W 17-10

#11

NY Jets

- 6

DENVER

W 17-13

#12

SAN DIEGO

- 4.5

Denver

W 16-13(ot)

#13

Denver

- 1.5

MINNESOTA

W 35-32

#14

DENVER

- 3

Chicago

T 13-10(ot)

#15

New England

- 7

DENVER

L 23-41

#16

Denver

- 3

BUFFALO

L 14-40

#17

DENVER

- 2

Kansas City

L 3-7

WC

Pittsburgh

- 7

DENVER

W 29-23(ot)

WC = Wild Card Game

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

WK

FAV

SPREAD

DOG

PATRIOTS RESULT

#1

New England

- 7

MIAMI

W 38-24

#2

NEW ENGLAND

- 6.5

San Diego

W 35-21

#3

New England

- 7

BUFFALO

L 31-34

#4

New England

- 6.5

OAKLAND

W 31-19

#5

NEW ENGLAND

- 7.5

NY Jets

W 30-21

#6

NEW ENGLAND

- 6.5

Dallas

L 20-16

#7

Bye Week

 

 

 

#8

New England

- 3

PITTSBURGH

L 17-25

#9

NEW ENGLAND

- 10

NY Giants

L 20-24

#10

NY JETS

- 2.5

New England

W 37-16

#11

NEW ENGLAND

- 17

Kansas City

W 34-3

#12

New England

- 3

PHILADELPHIA

W 38-20

#13

NEW ENGLAND

- 20

Indianapolis

L 31-24

#14

New England

- 7.5

WASHINGTON

L 34-27

#15

New England

- 7

DENVER

W 41-23

#16

NEW ENGLAND

- 7

Miami

L 27-24

#17

NEW ENGLAND

- 10

Buffalo

W 49-21

NOTE: Catch our Sunday NFL Divisional Playoff Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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