The NFL has reached the final 8 with a pair of rematches. The Baltimore Ravens travel to Denver while the Green Bay Packers head west to take on the San Francisco 49ers
All the talk is over! My favorite weekend of the football year has arrived and the Denver Broncos are a part of it. It feels light-years away that the Broncos were in New England on this very weekend. That team didn't have the feel of a champion. This version? Absolutely!
The temperatures are going to dip into the teens during the game. Much has been made of Peyton Manning's record in outdoor playoff game. What hasn't been mentioned with those stats are the fact that every one of those games, obviously, was a road game. It's hard to win on the road in the playoffs. The greatest quarterbacks of all time struggled on the road in the playoffs. The difference today will be 80,000 Broncos Maniacs. That has a way of making it feel warm for the home team - cold for the road team.
Joe Flacco was one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL this season on the road. His Total QBR this season away from home was an awful 29.8 - lower than Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jake Locker. Peyton Manning, on the other hand, was #1 in the NFL at home in Total QBR(87.3) higher than Matt Schaub and Aaron Rodgers.
Where the Broncos really have the advantage is their defense going up against the Ravens offense. Ray Rice is the one guy that scares me, but the Broncos will likely do all they can to stop him, forcing Flacco to be the difference. He usually is - but not to the benefit of Baltimore.
It's close early, but the Broncos pull away late, 30-16.
The late game features a rematch of Week 1. The Niners traveled to Green Bay that day and dominated the Packers 30-22. Things have changed since then. Colin Kaepernick is now the quarterback in San Francisco and the Green Bay Packers found a running game. They are also as healthy as they have been all season.
The same cannot be said for San Francisco. Justin Smith is attempting to return from an elbow injury. He'll be fitted with a similar brace to that used by Ray Lewis. Will he be effective? While Aldon Smith gets all the publicity, it's Smith that opens the rushing lanes for him.
That should scare Niners fans. The Packers are clicking and they remember what happened that day at Lambeau Field. Playing on the road in the playoffs doesn't scare Green Bay either and even though he's talented, it is still Colin Kaepernick's first game.
Advantage Green Bay.
Here is all the important info for today's games!
AFC Divisional round: Ravens vs. Broncos
NFC Divisional round: Packers vs. 49ers