Throughout the season, 49ers Pro Personnel Scout Quentus Cumby helps do the advance scouting which entails traveling each weekend to watch the 49ers next opponent and then providing evaluations and tips for the coaching department. The pro department is also responsible for evaluating tape of potential free agents. Since he's watched a majority of the NFL teams, 49ers.com invited Cumby to return for year two of What to Watch For in the playoffs. Here's his overview of this weekend's games. **
I'm 3-1. I've got to keep this thing going and stay above .500.
Now, this game is interesting. You've got two very, physical football teams, and I believe Tennessee won the last meeting 13-10. This is the game of the week to me.
Baltimore really did a good job last week moving the chains and running the football. We all know about Ed Reed, free safety, the guy is ridiculous. You've got Ray Lewis in the middle.
Both teams have physical defenses and play hard, but Tennessee does have some injuries. Albert Haynesworth has been limited with the knee. Kyle Vanden Bosch has been limited with the groin and the center Kevin Mawae has an elbow and hasn't been practicing at all this week. Those are some key injuries and even if they play, will they be at their best?
Tennessee had the same offensive line start most of the season until Mawae got hurt and they are a solid bunch. If Tennessee wants to have a chance, they have to run the football and they do have a pretty good combination of power with LenDale White and Chris Johnson with the speed.
For the Ravens, I think Joe Flacco will be fine. He hasn't played like a rookie all year and I don't see it happening now. He's got Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, and those two guys I think are one of the most underrated duos. It's a bit of a homecoming for Mason because he was in Tennessee for a while, but both of those guys play really well. Mason is one of the best route runners and I think Flacco is in a situation where he doesn't have to play outside himself, and gets the ball to his playmakers. That secondary in Tennessee is pretty good. It will be a challenge for Flacco, but I think he'll be alright. He's got one playoff victory under his belt.
Personnel wise, I think Baltimore has the better group than Tennessee does on offense. I think it's going to be a low slobber knocker game, but I have to make a pick and so I'm going on record – upset in Nashville, Baltimore Ravens, I like it. I think if Baltimore wins this game, they're going to the Super Bowl.
**Arizona @ Carolina
**I think the glass slipper is about to come off for the Cardinals They are going down to Carolina. They did a really great job last week with the resurrection of Edgerrin James. He had been pissed off about his clock, but they gave him the ball and he did a good job. Kurt Warner is playing his best football since his days in St. Louis, and we all know about Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.
Anquan Boldin has a hamstring and was limited in practice, but it sounds like he'll play. I doubt he'll be 100% but with his type of game, as a big, physical receiver, I think he'll be fine. They like to dump it off to him and he can break tackles and get yards after catch, but when he sat down, they really didn't miss a beat with Steve Breaston stepping right in.
They are pretty explosive, but Carolina matches up with them really well. At corner they've got Ken Lucas and Chris Gamble. They are both big corners who can run, good feet, very instinctive. I think they match up well with those Arizona receivers.
You've got Julius Peppers on the defensive line who is going to get a pass rush. Jon Beason is a really good player at middle linebacker and makes a lot of tackles.
It's down in Carolina, a west coast team going east, it's going to be in the elements, it does get cold in North Carolina. Then you've got Steve Smith, who I think had 7 catches for over a 100 yards the last time they played and Carolina won that last meeting.
Then you've got the two runners in Carolina, the rookie Jonathan Stewart out of Oregon State and DeAngelo Williams. I think they call them smash and dash. They are really playing well and they live with that run game and then big plays down field to Steve Smith.
I think Travis LaBoy will be back this week for Arizona. They are a good defense, they fly around, they play hard, and they are a tough group of guys but I think Carolina is a physical offensive team and I think in the end, Carolina will be the team standing at the end of that game.
San Diego @ Pittsburgh Steelers
I think the party is over for San Diego too. We've got another west coast team going east to Pittsburgh, to an unfriendly stadium and the terrible towels.
Although Ben Roethlisberger has some healthy problems with the concussion, and the Steelers have had problems handling the pass rush, I think this one goes in their favor.
The last meeting ending 11-10, it was pretty close, but Pittsburgh really dominated that game statistically and I don't see it changing at all.
The Steelers motto is tough defense, run the football and they do it really well. I don't think LT is playing this week and I don't think little Sproles, the Engine that could will be tooting this week.
With James Harrison as the defensive MVP this year, that guy is like a little Mike Tyson at backer. He's tough, he can rush the passer, play in the box against the run, he really does a good job for them. Then you've got safety Troy Polamalu and they are a good defensive football team. If Sproles has to carry the load, it's going to be a hard task against this defense and I don't think he can withstand.
Phillip Rivers has played very well, but you've got to be balanced going into Pittsburgh. Also they have issues with Vincent Jackson, their top receiver. It's playoff week and this guy is DUI'ing it. That's a distraction, plus the travel. Pittsburgh is going to win this football game. Bad weather, Pittsburgh football. I think that's a safe pick.
Philadelphia Eagles @ New York GiantsThey split the series this year, so this game is going to be a tossup game, and a hard pick.
The game is going to come down to can Philly stop the New York Giants run game and slow those guys down? AND, it also depends on which Philly team shows up.
Brandon Jacobs is healthy now, and that offensive line of the Giants is arguably one of the best in the league right now. Philly did a good job in Minnesota, but Derrick Ward and Jacobs are playing really well. They are both power backs.
Before going into the week we played them, Ward, Jacbos and Ahmad Bradshaw were all averaging over six yards per carry. Ward and Jacobs can grind it out and finish games, while Bradshaw is the homerun threat, and a change of pace guy. They just move the chains.
I think with Eli Manning they are a little short-handed with Plaxico Burress being out. They are relying on Amani Toomer and Steve Smith to make plays for them. Toomer has been in the league forever and he's talented, but they don't have the big playmaker in their passing game, but as long as Eli avoids making mistakes and they can grind it out, they'll be fine.
We all know that New York has a pretty good pass rush, but in both games against Philadelphia this year, they had zero sacks. You've got to factor that in. I think it's because Donovan McNabb is so elusive in the pocket and can really make plays down the field to the rookie DeSean Jackson. Donovan has been playing really well and the Giants have to contain that guy. If the pocket collapses, he can escape and do some awesome things with his feet and get the ball down the field. He's one of the best quarterbacks in escaping the pass rush.
This is in New York and so I'm going with the Giants. Philly is hot right now, but again, it's in New York. They've got the running game, the best oline and I think the Giants pass rush will get at least one sack and if they can control Brian Westbrook, they'll be fine.