Day 1 of the 2012 NFL playoffs gave us pretty much what we expected. The Bengals hung around for a while, but eventually couldn’t compete with the Texans’ running game, and the surprisingly strong-armed T.J. Yates. Then the shootout began in New Orleans, and Drew Brees doesn’t lose many shootouts.

There’s already been a significant development in today’s opening game, one that will make life difficult for the Falcons’ secondary.

Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants (1:00 p.m. ET)

  • The Falcons have been dealt a massive blow before this game even starts. Brent Grimes is inactive, with his knee still not healed sufficiently despite his appearance on the practice field Friday. Dominique Franks will start in his place, and he’ll be tasked with slowing down Victor Cruz and/or Hakeem Nicks. Stopping those two just become significantly more challenging for Atlanta without their top corner.
  • As expected, linebacker Stephen Nicholas also won’t play for Atlanta, and he’ll be replaced by Spencer Adkins.
  • The injury news is much better on the Giants’ sideline. Jake Ballard missed the final two games of the regular season with a knee injury of his own, but the tight end is active today and he’ll start. He still has a heavy wrap on the knee, and he told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that he’s about 90 percent healthy.
  • Justin Tuck called said the Falcons’ offensive line a bunch of dirt bags. Atlanta, of course, sees things a little differently. There’s sort of an eye for an eye approach to their play, with the dominant mentality being that if you hit our guy, we’re going to hit you.
  • A Falcons fan wrote a plea for victory, not just as a football fan in Atlanta, but as a sports fan in Atlanta. This is a sports city still recovering from a historic collapse by the Braves just a few months ago, and recent Falcons seasons have done little more than tease.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (4:30 p.m. ET)

  • This will likely be our last day to read lengthy essays on Tim Tebow guilt free. Surely the Tebow obsession and polarization will die down for the rest of the playoffs if the Broncos are eliminated today, right? Probably not, but as Denver’s savior prepares for his first playoff game, Rick Maese tells us that while his quarterback skills will constantly be questioned, his hide-and-seek skills can’t be matched.
  • Mike Klis of the Denver Post still has his blinders fastened firmly, and still insists on citing the quarterback “wins” statistic as his sole support for Tebow’s success this year. But beyond that, he’s likely right when he says that no matter what happens today, Tebow will be Denver’s opening day starter in 2012. It seems unlikely that the Broncos enter into the Matt Flynn auction, and at the back of the draft there won’t be a viable, trust-worthy arm to compete in camp right away.
  • While making his argument that a Broncos win is “mission implausible, not mission impossible,” Woody Paige noted the importance of the Orange Zone. In Bronco vernacular, that’s any area inside the opposition’s 35 yard-line, and in Tebow’s 44 trips to the Orange Zone, the Broncos have failed to score points only seven times.
  • It’s undeniable that the Steelers’ offense hasn’t been the same since Ben Roethlisberger injured his ankle, and his mobility has been limited. He missed one game following the injury, and in the other two games he threw three interceptions and no touchdowns. But playing amateur bone doctor is difficult, and Roethlisberger still insists that he simply hasn’t been that good recently.
  • Let’s quickly flip through our dusty NFL fact book. With a win today the Steelers will have 34 playoff wins, breaking their tie with the Cowboys to become the most successful post-season team in NFL history.

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