The New York Giants and New Orleans Saints are winners of two of the National Football League’s (NFL) last four Super Bowls and so it’s only right that a couple of previous champions have advanced to the second round of the 2011-12 playoffs. Behind solid quarterback play and a few explosive aerial plays, the Giants and Saints both dispatched their first-round opponents with relative ease to open the postseason.

The AFRO takes a look back at the NFC wild card weekend and a look ahead for the NFC’s third and fourth seeds.

New Orleans 45-Detroit 28: The Saints flexed their muscle against the fifth-seeded Detroit Lions Jan. 7, breaking records in the process of rolling to a 45-28 victory. Fueled by a noisy Superdome crowd, New Orleans churned out a postseason record 626 total yards and scored on six straight possessions to end the game.

While quarterback Drew Brees (466 passing yards, three touchdowns) was sensational, the Saints outrushed Detroit 167 yards to 32, forcing the usually one-dimensional Lions into an even more one-sided attack. New Orleans will travel to San Francisco next Saturday to face the second-seeded 49ers.

New York 14-Atlanta 2: Several National Football League (NFL) pundits predicted an upset for the sixth-seeded Atlanta Falcons over an underwhelming Giants team on Jan. 8 at MetLife Stadium. New York however, apparently missed the projections as they clipped the Falcons 24-2.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning hooked up with receiver Hakeem Nicks for two scores while New York’s two-headed rushing attack of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw (155 rushing yards) kept the Falcons defense off balance.
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the day for the home team came from a stifling defense that managed to shut out a high-powered Atlanta offense and hold it to just 183 passing yards. New York will travel to Green Bay next Sunday to face the postseason’s top-seeded Packers.

Looking Ahead: Only the Saints will be favored next weekend between the two visiting road teams but even New Orleans will have their hands full with a San Francisco 49ers defense that finished fourth in the NFL in yards allowed. New Orleans will also be subject to what should be a raucous pro-49ers crowd at Candlestick Park for the team’s first postseason appearance since 2002.

San Francisco has ridden the coattails of a strong defense all year to compensate for an unattractive offense that has posed little threat at times to various teams. The Saints however, aren’t particularly known for defense anyway, which could make next weekend’s showdown a true matchup of great offense versus great defense.

The last time the Giants faced off against Green Bay on Dec. 4, a 38-35 instant classic was born at MetLife Stadium. The Packers used a last-minute field goal to squeak past New York, a feat the Giants surely haven’t forgotten. In fact, New York’s 2008 Super Bowl victory came on the heels of a 23-20 road win at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, so the two teams have been trading punches for the last few years.

Fans could be in store for another close one if New York can control a Green Bay offense that led the NFL in scoring at 35 points per game. Green Bay stellar quarterback Aaron Rodgers should be well rested after a bye week. Rodgers however, could be somewhat rusty considering he sat out the season finale against Detroit after Green Bay clinched home field advantage with a victory the previous week.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO