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Michael Taylor 15th Jan 2010 - 16:57

Expect more shocks on divisional day Saturday

After the drama and shocks of last week it's fair to say the divisional round of the NFL playoffs has a lot to live up to but that's not to say there isn't at least a hint of potential surprises, especially on Saturday.

Arizona Cardinals @ New Orleans Saints

If you're not excited about the offence on show in the divisional round opener then there must be something wrong with you.

The Saints flew out to 13-0 this year on the back of Drew Brees' dominance under centre and it wasn't until playoff football was a guarantee in Louisiana that any team even managed to come close to shutting down their offence.

Marques Colston flourished as Brees' number one target connecting for nine touchdowns while his week six performance against the Giants still lingers in the mind as what he's capable of when used as an out-and-out ace.

That's just why Brees was so successful this year though; a deep receiving pool with every player capable of beating coverage.

His opposite number Kurt Warner may not have the luxury of such a wealth of talent, he does however have the man mountain Larry Fitzgerald to look for.

Whether he draws double coverage or not Fitzgerald simply cannot be stopped, or at least that's how it seemed throughout last year's playoffs and in last week's epic against the Packers.

And what an epic that one was as it swung one way, then the other, until, ironically, it all came down to a forced fumble that Karlos Dansbury returned for an overtime ending touchdown.

Despite showing an alarming lack of defence in the second half, the Saints must be slightly worried about how well Warner has started throwing the ball again and how similar the scenario is to last year.

Last year the Cards came from nowhere to win the NFC and this year they're almost equally under-rated.

New Orleans, on paper, are the better team and their record this season showed that. However, I just get a sneaking suspicion that Ken Whisenhunt's playoff savvy team have at least one more shock in them.

Recommendation: Arizona to win - 5/2

Baltimore Ravens @ Indianapolis Colts

I'm still reeling in shock from New England's complete and utter meltdown in the first quarter of their wild card match with the Baltimore Ravens.

John Harbaugh laid the groundwork for success with a pass rush that never gave Tom Brady time to operate but I'm unwilling to give the Ravens defence too much credit yet - rather I'm putting it down to a terrible day for the Pats.

Whichever way you look at it though, when Baltimore travel to Indianapolis to face the AFC's number one ranked team there won't be any self doubt in any of the Ravens' defensive units minds.

They've faced Brady and battered him, they now need to do the same to four-time MVP Peyton Manning, and with Ray Lewis at their disposal it could just be possible.

The Colts gave up on going for an unbeaten season by throwing in the reserves in week 16, but even before that they'd hardly displayed the characteristics of what would statistically have been one of the best teams in history.

It seemed every week they were getting through by the skin of their teeth, with the key word 'luck' being mentioned more than a few times during their 14 game winning streak.

They scraped past New England, Jacksonville, Houston, Miami, San Francisco and their opponents here Baltimore by four points or less on each occasion. Jim Caldwell saw it as getting the job done, I'm seeing it as a tide that could easily turn, especially when the ante goes up.

The key to stopping the Colts is stopping the pass, it sounds overly simple but that's the area of their offence that brought them unlimited success this year - in fact they were last in the league in rushing yards.

Obviously getting to Peyton is a big ask given his status as one of the greatest of all-time but if anybody can it's the blitzing Ravens.

And if they can get big stops then just watch out for Ray Rice and Willis McGahee to smash holes in yet another defensive line - you can ask Bill Belichick just how that feels as well.

Recommendation: Baltimore to win - 11/5




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