Emotion can carry a team, but it can only carry a team so far, and the Ravens hope the boost they got from Ray Lewis playing his last home game in the Wild Card round could continue in the divisional round as they travel to Mile High to take on the Broncos. The bad news is the Ravens have not had much success at stopping Peyton Manning, who has won eight straight games against them including a win in December. The Ravens have gotten some injured players back since then, but is it enough to beat the Broncos who have won their last 11 games. I say no, the Broncos have been playing well on both sides of the ball, with Manning have a MVP season at quarterback, while their defense led by Von Miller, Elvis Dummervil and Champ Bailey has been just as key to their success. The Ravens offense even in their win against the Colts was mistake prone, and against a veteran team they won’t be able to skate by like they did against the young Colts. The Broncos are also an outstanding second half team, which could wear down the Ravens especially in the higher altitude of Denver. Everything points to an easy Broncos win.
When the season began these two teams faced off in Week 1 at Lambeau Field, the 49ers won the game easily as QB Alex Smith had one of his best games of the season. Many felt right away they could meet with a trip to New Orleans on the line, and though maybe a round earlier the winner could very well still be the favorite to represent the NFC at Super Bowl XLVII. Since that game the 49ers have made changes, turning to Colin Kaepernick to replace Smith at quarterback. While Kaepernick is more athletic we still have yet to see how he performs under pressure. This game will be a big test as the Packers are looking like the team that won the Super Bowl two years ago, getting back Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson after missing several weeks due to injury. If both players continue to perform at a high level the 49ers are in big trouble. Ad that Aaron Rodgers is playing well and the Packers could be going back to the Super Bowl. The 49ers meanwhile also have questions on defense as the loss of Justin Smith has hurt Aldon Smith’s ability to get to the quarterback. If Rodgers has time, the Pack will win.
When they met on a Monday Night in Week 13, the Texans were 11-1 and looking like the team to beat in the AFC, while the defending AFC Champs Patriots were hoping to send a message that they were they were still the class of the AFC. The message was sent loud and clear as the Patriots dominated the game and exposed a weakness in the Texans they have yet to cover up. That 42-14 loss in December was the start of the Texans late season swoon, as they dropped three of their last four games and lost home field, and lost a bye week. Now they have to win in Foxboro to get to the AFC Championship Game, and to do so they need to figure out in one week what they could not figure in December. While the Patriots had two weeks to game plan and examine the Texans short comings. Even in their win over the Bengals, the Texans had many issues as they settled for Field Goals four times with drives stalling in the red zone, while their secondary had several gaps that if they faced Tom Brady instead of Andy Dalton last week would have resulted in a loss. The Patriots will have to come out flat and J.J. Watt would have to have the game of his life if the Texans have a chance.
No team has more pressure upon them this weekend than the Atlanta Falcons, who are hosting the Seattle Seahawks who are perhaps the hottest team in the NFL and have no pressure. The Falcons who are in the playoffs for three straight seasons and for the fourth time in five years are still seeking their first postseason win, with Matt Ryan and Mike Smith; if they fall behind early the home crowd could begin to turn on them. Whether or not the Falcons make it to the Super Bowl or not is not as important as winning this game, as they can’t afford to go one and done again, especially at home. True their last two losses have come against the eventual Super Bowl Champs, but the Falcons need to show they can win in the playoffs and they will. This is an early 1pm kickoff always a big disadvantage for a western team. The Seahawks will also wish they had Chris Clemons in this game. Clemons, a Georgia native tore his ACL last week is the team’s leading pass rusher and would have been a key factor to them stopping the Falcons offense. With time and the Falcons receivers expect Matt Ryan to have a big game and get the Falcons to the NFC Championship.