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NFC Divisional Semi-Finals 2012

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Not only have New Orleans and San Francisco two of the best straight up records in the National Football League at 13-3, both teams are 10-4-0 against the NFL betting spread. That’s a tremendous level of achievement shown by both teams, and makes for a mouth-watering contest this Saturday at Candlestick Park.

New Orleans travels to Northern California as a four point road favorite. New Orleans is perfect straight up and ATS in the Superdome this year, but on the road the Saints are 5-3 straight up and 4-4-0 against the NFL betting lines. The Niners are 7-1 straight up but perfect, 8-0-0, against the spread at Candlestick. Any way you look at it, the teams are very evenly matched.

The difference may be at quarterback. Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s single season passing record this year but in may ways that’s the least of his achievements – Marino and Brees played in different eras, and it’s more or less impossible to compare them.

Defending Drew Brees is like fighting an octopus. There are just too many places from where the knockout punch can come. The Saints’ offensive line protect him so well that he can pick out whom he chooses, his passes are accurate and quick, he’s got the vision and the experience to audible adjustments at the line of scrimmage and he’s got the sixth best rated running game in the NFL to help him out as well.

San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith has to hope that the Niner defense, one of the best in the League, can keep Brees in check while he operates an offense that relies on a lot of rushing from Frank Gore with Michael Crabtree as a potent deep threat. The Niners may have an advantage in that New Orleans started slow against Detroit – the slower the Saints are to take off, the better the Niners’ chance of springing an upset, and returning to the NFC Championship game for the first time in seventeen years.

Brett Favre’s storied career could have ended oh-so-differently if the New York Giants had read the script in 2007. A 23-20 overtime win at Lambeau saw the Giants win the NFC and go on to beat New England in one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time.

Five years later the Giants return to Lambeau as NFL gambling underdogs. But while the Packers are licking their lips at the thought of revenge, the Giants are equally happy at the thought of repeating the dose.

Giants at Packers is a more even game than the NFL odds would suggest. The Packers have the best record in football, of course, but the Giants recovered from a typical post-Halloween slump to get to the playoffs and hammer Atlanta last week. The Packers may want revenge, but they’ll have to fight for it.

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