The Road to Superbowl XLVI: Divisional Play-Off Weekend

As some of you may know, I'm a staunch fan of the San Francisco 49ers. It doesn't matter how late the game is shown on British TV, I'll still be there with a gallon of coffee and shedloads of caffeine tablets.

And this weekend was no different - we saw the arrival of the Divisional Play-Offs; four games that would determine who the best four teams in the NFL are this season. A quarter-final, if you like.

I won't go into too much detail.... BUT WE WON. Which was great news for next door, and their 2am wake-up call as I went a little bit mad.

It was a brilliant game - one of the best in recent play-off history, and certainly one of the greatest I've ever watched. We were 17-0 up at the end of the first quarter, before the New Orleans Saints made a monumental comeback in the second and third quarters. With less than three minutes to go, Alex Smith, Niners quarterback, rushed forward himself to score what many believed was the winning touchdown, and therefore sending the 49ers through to the NFC Championship game.

It wasn't. The Saints went on a quick drive, played some brilliant passes and the ball ended up in the Niners end-zone, and suddenly the Saints were ahead, and in was heart-in-mouth time. Less than a minute on the clock, 60 yards to make up, and three points needed to win the game.

With nine seconds to go, Smith darted a ball to Vernon Davis, who scored the TD, before running over to Head Coach Jim Harbaugh sobbing. 36-32, and I thank you.

The other three games weren't quite as exhilarating - the New England Patriots beat every neutral's favourite team the Denver Broncos 45-10 - meaning Tim Tebow, arguably the biggest arrival on the NFL scene in the 2nd half of the season, went home after igniting his team to the Play-Offs. Sad, but that's why they call it competition.

A close game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans led to a Ravens win by one clear touchdown, by 20 points to 13. And finally, the last game of the weekend was between current Superbowl Champions and No. 1 seeds the Green Bay Packers, and 2007 Superbowl Champions the New York Giants.

Intense wasn't the word. It was a back-and-forth game - you score a field goal, we'll score a field goal. You score a touchdown, we'll score a touchdown. Many expected that due to the Packers' home advantage at Lambeau Field, we'd see an absolute whitewash. Far from it. A second-string defense, mixed with bad mistakes, dropped catches and plenty of turnovers, meant the Giants had a big foot in this game, and used it to their advantage. They were clinical last night, and deservedly won 37-20.

Which means next weekend sees both the NFC and the AFC Championship games. We'll see the New York Giants come to the mighty Candlestick Park to face the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC game, followed by Baltimore travelling to the Gillette Stadium (or The Razor, as it's ironically known) to play the New England Patriots in the AFC game.

Both games are very evenly tied. The 49ers have arguably the best defense in the NFL this season, whereas the Giants have peaked at the right moment, and quarterback Eli Manning is playing out his skin. The Patriots continue this dynasty of power in the AFC, and with an offense as powerful as theirs, it could be killer. The Ravens have hunger and determination, however, and mentality is where that game will be won.

Whichever team wins either game travels to the Lucas Oil Stadium, in Indianapolis, on February 5th, for Superbowl XLVI. I would make a prediction here, but I just can't risk tempting fate. My heart rate has already hit 500 this weekend - I can't risk that again.

Either way, we've seen a brilliant season this year in the NFL. I'll write a little more after the Superbowl, but having seen Twitter come alive on Saturday night during the Niners vs. Saints game, I really believe that American Football is making a massive comeback here in the UK.

Agree with me? Want to add your tuppence worth? You can follow me on Twitter - I'm @Adam9309 - or find me on my own blog!

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Comment by Doghouse on January 18, 2012 at 12:47

Very happy to see Tebow's mob get beat. Nothing annoys me more than players who think that God wins them sports fixtures. What does that dweeb think? That he's is God's own Be A Pro character in Madden 12?

Comment by Cra19 - A true Red 'head' Devil on January 17, 2012 at 11:15

I think NFL is getting more popular by the year in the UK. You just need to look at the ever growing plans to bring more and more games to Wembley. I'm a Pats myself, for no other reason than when I was about 13 I got my first NFL video game (Madden 2000 for PS1, before I'd even watched American Football) and chose them because they had England in their name.

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