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Joe Namath’s divisional-round playoff picks: Matchup winners have the advantage

Joe Namath throws the ball over big Ben Davidson in the 1968 AFL playoffs. (AP)

As he did last year, NFL Hall of Famer and New York Jets legend Joe Namath will join Yahoo! Sports and the Shutdown Corner Blog for commentary and analysis. Make sure you like the Official Joe Namath page on Facebook. And with playoff news always breaking like injuries and weather, please make sure to check the Broadway Joe site for updates and even more playoff insight from the legend himself!

What makes the playoff such a great thing is that you are seeing the best playing the best with everything on the line. But what happens when these teams have played each other before?

A lot of things come into play when two teams face each other in the playoffs having just played each other a few weeks before. There is a familiarity component as one team knows what to do in this situation, against this opponent, to get a win. But the team they beat earlier this season knows the blueprint they’ll use so they’re not going into this thing blind either.

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It’s hard to tell, really, because the two teams have this familiarity but I don’t know if either team has an advantage in this case just because one team won or one team lost in the regular season. Some teams just happen to match up favoring one side and it plays out that way, no matter what.

Three of the four games this weekend involve rematches from the regular season. In Week 1, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Packers 30-22 in a game where the 49ers had 186 rushing yards – but how much can you tell from a game that long ago? And of course, the Houston Texans are looking to atone in a major, major way for their Week 14 blowout loss on the road to the New England Patriots. I can tell you that the Texans are using that 42-14 score line as motivation this week.

Two years ago, the Patriots had a similar scenario, beating the New York Jets in a Monday night blowout. The Jets went up there in the playoffs and came out with a win. New England looked exceptional a few weeks ago, in fact they were tremendous offensively. The Texans didn’t run the ball well that game and they’ll have to this time around.

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The Baltimore Ravens certainly have some motivation too, with a Week 15 loss to the Denver Broncos, a 34-17 defeat where they rushed for just 56 yards. Don’t think that the Ravens travel to Denver looking to better that number and that young Ray Rice kid – boy, I like him a lot – will be running with something to prove.

A young team like the Seattle Seahawks might benefit from being under the radar all year and the Atlanta Falcons surely have heard about this team. But the two teams not having played since 2011 might be a benefit the Seahawks.

Who has the advantage this time around when you’re in a playoff game and you played your opponent in the regular season? Is it the team that won the previous matchup because they have confidence but they also went out there and executed better? Or is the team that lost? After all, they have something to prove and lessons learned from that last game.

You want to know the key for the Texans or the Ravens or the Packers will be this time around to turn a regular season loss into a playoff win? Play better! I’m not trying to be a wise guy, but let’s keep this simple: Be who you are. Create turnovers and limit mistakes. It’s that simple. When you’re coming off a bad loss against a team you’re facing this weekend, you need to play perfect football.

I can’t give you a more sophisticated answer on this one -- sorry, folks!

Each team that won their prior regular season matchup ahead of this weekend is playing at home as well this go-round, a huge advantage here. So don’t be looking for the losing team in these three matchups to suddenly make a huge stride and win. I just don’t see it happening this week.

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Joe’s Picks:

Baltimore at Denver – Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has to be sensational, he needs to play over his head! They need to play error-free ball and cut back on those daggum penalties. They’ll need to run it better and force the Broncos into mistakes. Everyone talks about Peyton Manning but don’t forget about that Broncos defense – they are good and efficient and they make plays. You’re talking about a team that was good last year and has gotten better this year on both sides of the ball. I don’t think the Ravens can muster the kind of offense to keep up with the Broncos:

Joe’s Pick: Denver

Houston at New England – I’ll just start with the weather. Yes, it is the same for both teams, but the Texans are used to being indoors. You can go out there and try to forget it, but it is a focus-breaker. It will be on their mind all game – trust me, it was on mine! The Texans have to learn to control the ball and get that running game going. If they can do that, they can go play-action and move the ball better than they did last time. But I don’t think they can. The Patriots will sustain drives and get points and capitalize on turnovers. The Patriots are the better team at this point.

Joe’s Pick: New England

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons – You have to like the wide receivers on the Falcons but that defense – yikes – they’re not playing well. Looking at this game, you think about the week off and the names on offense and a Matt Ryan and a Michael Turner, you begin to like this team. Then you think about the defense and you see what the Seahawks can do running the ball and you don’t like the Falcons so much anymore! I picked the Seahawks last week on the road, but I think the matchups on the edge favor the Falcons -- but they have to stop the run. The Seahawks will struggle with Chris Clemons out to get to the pocket and generate a pass rush. It’s Atlanta’s time to win.

Joe’s Pick: Atlanta

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers – This is a real tough one. I just like the way the Packers are playing right now. You think of San Francisco and that offense isn’t as impressive as it was a few weeks ago. The 49ers have an edge with the defense and a day ago, my mind was made up that they would carry the day. I wavered a bit, but I have to go with the 49ers and Frank Gore running that ball. I just like the 49ers too much.

Joe’s Pick: San Francisco

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