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NFL playoffs reach division round

Jan. 13, 2012 at 9:23 PM   |   Comments

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- The major contenders for the Super Bowl title enter the playoffs this weekend, although much of the attention will be focused on an unexpected challenger.

New England, Baltimore, San Francisco and defending champion Green Bay all had a bye past last week's wild-card round, and each will host a game while the NFL gets down to its final four Saturday and Sunday.

The divisional round begins at 4:30 p.m. EST Saturday with San Francisco hosting New Orleans, the Super Bowl champion two seasons ago and a winner last weekend over Detroit.

With record-setting quarterback Drew Brees leading the top offense in the NFL, the Saints will try to get past a defensive unit that was ranked fourth in yardage allowed during the regular season. New Orleans piled up 626 yards against Detroit last week.

Saturday's second game will be the most intriguing of the weekend in that it features pro football's newest cult hero -- Denver quarterback Tim Tebow.

Tebow completed only 10 passes against Pittsburgh last week, but on average each of those completions moved the ball 31 yards. His 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime gave Denver a 29-23 win and set up Saturday's meeting with New England.

Although the Patriots are a decided favorite to advance to the AFC title game, New England's defense is ranked next-to-last in the league.

Baltimore will host Houston Sunday, beginning at 1 p.m. EST. The Texans played in and won the first post-season game in franchise history last week, easily disposing of Cincinnati.

A low-scoring game is expected since Baltimore gave up the third-fewest points in the league this season and Houston was fourth.

Green Bay will close out the division round at home against the New York Giants, who hope to duplicate their feat from four years ago. The Giants won the NFC title game in Green Bay that season and then handed New England its only loss of the season to capture the Super Bowl.

The conference championship games will be played next week and the Super Bowl will be contested Feb. 5 in Indianapolis.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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