We could witness two events today that seemed incredibly impossible just a few months ago, starting with the 49ers winning a playoff game, which would be the first playoff victory for the franchise since 2002. Then later Tim Tebow could begin the end of our world by leading the Broncos to another upset win, this time over a team that doesn’t have half its roster in the trainer’s room.
Sadly, there are only three weekends of vegetation left in this NFL season. So you know the drill: do nothing, and watch everything. Any man who can invent a way to use his household facilities while still staying on the couch is a friend of mine.
Today’s first game kicks off in just under three hours, so let’s take our usual stroll through some game-day reading.
New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49ers (4:30 p.m. ET)
- August feels like a long time ago, probably because in an NFL season, August was a long time ago. But as Yahoo’s Michael Silver told us yesterday, the 49ers still have vivid memories of watching their quarterback get throttled repeatedly while Gregg Williams dialed up the next Saints blitz during their preseason opener.
- While the Saints’ roster is filled with playoff experience after their championship run two years ago, there are only eight 49ers who’ve appeared in a playoff game.
- The Saints offense is much worse on the road than at home, an observation that’s been made often this week. But as Danny Tuccitto of Niners Nation and Football Outsiders explains, that observation comes with a caveat. Yes, the difference between the Saints’ offensive efficiency at home compared to when they’re away from the Pontiac Superdome is the third worst in the league, but away from New Orleans Drew Brees still leads the fourth best road offense. So what does that mean? At home the Saints are unstoppable, but on the road they can at be slowed down, and at least partially contained.
- Frank Gore didn’t have an epiphany of any kind this season when he realized this 49ers team can be successful. That light bulb moment first came on about a year ago when he was forced to sit at home and watch Seattle upset New Orleans on Wild Card Weekend. The veteran running back told Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News that the Seahawks were playing in San Fran’s spot.
- By taking just one snap in this game, Alex Smith will make $1 million.
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots (8:00 p.m. ET)
- Whenever I’m out socially and go through the routine getting to know you conversations with someone I’ve just met, the response is often instantaneous when I mention that I write about football in my housecoat for a living. They ask what I think about Tebow, but inevitably they’re not nearly as interested in Tim Tebow the quarterback as they are Tim Tebow the person, or Tim Tebow the Christian. Just like Dan Barry of the New York Times, they’re aware that Tebow is more than just a passer–he’s a verb and a philosophy, and like it or not, the Tebow fascination will destroy all human thought with another upset win tonight.
- The skies will be clear tonight in Foxboro, but the the air will be bitterly cold, with the low forecasted at nine degrees Fahrenheit. Tebow, a Florida boy, will be playing in by far the coldest game of his entire football career. His previous personal low was 30 degrees, and that will seem downright tropical compared to tonight.
- Josh McDaniels’ move from St. Louis to New England during the season had a bit of an odor to it, and despite being the Rams’ offensive coordinator throughout the regular season he’ll still be on the Pats’ sideline tonight. He exposed a loophole in the league’s rules, and if there’s a hole the NFL really hates, it’s a loophole. Adam Schefter reported earlier this morning that this offseason that hole could be closed.
- Wes Welker is trying to make playoff facial hair cool. Luckily he’s already landed a model, because the current state of his face and chest could dramatically restrict his ability to make women acknowledge his existence.
- Long snappers are like third base coaches: if you don’t notice them or know their names, they’ve done a great job. But if you’re scoffing at the absence of Broncos long snapper Lonie Paxton, I guess we’ll have to remind you about what happened in the 2003 wild card game between the 49ers and Giants. Recently signed long snapper Trey Junkin botched two snaps, one of which was in overtime.
Lead pic via Darren Rovell