NFL Playoffs 2013: Key Matchups in Each Divisional Round Game

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 10: Matt Schaub #8 of the Houston Texans shakes hands with Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots following the game at Gillette Stadium on December 10, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Wild Card Round of the NFL playoffs is over, paving the way for some very intriguing matchups in the Divisional Round.

In order to get to the Super Bowl, a team needs its key players to step up and perform, otherwise it will be going home.

As such, here's one matchup from each Divisional Round game that will decide the winner.


Peyton Manning vs. Baltimore Ravens Secondary

If the Baltimore Ravens are going to get past the Denver Broncos, they'll have to minimize the impact of Peyton Manning.

At this point, it's unrealistic to expect that Manning will be shut down completely, so the Ravens just need to worry about keeping Broncos receivers out of the end zone.

But even that might not be enough.

These two teams met in Week 15. The Ravens lost, 34-17, in spite of holding Manning to just 204 yards passing and one touchdown.

Getting Manning to turn the ball would also be key.

Although Andrew Luck threw for 288 yards in the Divisional Round loss to Baltimore, the Ravens intercepted a pass and forced Luck into a fumble as well.


DuJuan Harris vs. San Francisco 49ers Defense

Aaron Rodgers isn't going to be able to win this game by himself. That much was evident the last time these two teams met back in September.

The Green Bay Packers lost, 30-22, to the San Francisco 49ers. Rodgers threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, he was also the leading rusher, running for nine more yards than running back Cedric Benson.

Whether it's DuJuan Harris or Ryan Grant, the Packers need a presence on the ground.

That's going to be a tall order considering the 49ers had the fourth-best rush defense in the league, averaging 94.2 yards a game.

At this stage of the playoffs, you can't win with a one-dimensional offense.


Tom Brady vs. Matt Schaub

When the New England Patriots and Houston Texans met in Week 14, it was billed as a shootout between two gunslingers: Tom Brady and Matt Schaub.

Brady without question won the matchup, throwing for 296 yards and four touchdowns compared to Schaub's 232 yards and an interception. The Patriots, of course, won, 42-14, making a statement they had to be considered one of the best teams in the league.

The Patriots have proven before that they can handle Arian Foster, who only managed 46 yards on 15 carries in the loss.

With as bad as these two defenses have been of late defending the pass, the QB who has the better game will likely be advancing to the AFC Title game.


Roddy White/Julio Jones vs. Richard Sherman

No matter which receiver he's lined up against, Richard Sherman can wreak havoc on Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons passing attack.

Sherman's eight interceptions were tied for second, and his 24 passes defended ranked first in the league during the regular season.

In addition, Sherman forced three fumbles, which is a very good number for a cornerback.

Michael Turner isn't having a very good season. It's been Ryan carrying much of the offensive burden during the season, and that's not going to change in the playoffs.

If Sherman can lock down Roddy White or Julio Jones, he'd be cutting off one of Ryan's favorite targets.