While Saturday’s are usually saved for college football, there is a point in every NFL season where the playoffs encompass the entire weekend, and that’s the case once again with the 2013 Divisional Round.
With two of the weekend’s best matchups saved for Saturday, it’s time to predict which teams will cash their tickets to conference championships and which teams will go home empty handed.
Both of the following marquee games will have every type of NFL fan, from the hardcore to the casual, excited for the afternoon and evening full of postseason football.
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos: 4:30 p.m. ET on CBS
While the Baltimore Ravens are coming off a huge win over the Indianapolis Colts, it was the added determination from defensive leader Ray Lewis and his announcement that he will retire after this season that carried them through the Wild Card Round.
As great as Lewis’ path to redemption and triumph has been to watch, Peyton Manning and the tough Denver Broncos offensive and defensive units will end the story on a sour note.
With the NFL’s fifth-best passing attack (283.4 yards per game) and a rushing assault that has played better lately, the Broncos will do serious damage against the 20th-ranked Ravens rush-defense (122.8 yards allowed per game).
Add in the fact that Joe Flacco and the entire Baltimore offense has been the picture of inconsistency this season, and the stout Denver defense (third in the NFL in terms of both opponents’ passing and rushing yards) will shut the Ravens down.
Prediction: Denver 27, Baltimore 17
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers: 8 p.m. ET on Fox
While the Green Bay Packers may be the road team this week against the San Francisco 49ers, they are the more talented team offensively and their defense is getting red-hot at the right time.
This is going to be an amazing game.
The return of stars like Clay Matthews, Sam Shields and Charles Woodson to the Packers' defensive unit has returned the team to the level we saw in the 2010 Super Bowl.
Now, Green Bay must stop second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers’ unique offense.
With the help of Frank Gore and the rushing attack, Kaepernick and San Francisco will have to play the cleanest game of the season and avoid turnovers. If the team gives the ball to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offensive unit on a short field, no defense can stop them.
The 49ers defense deserves immense credit for being fourth in the league against the pass and the run, but Green Bay’s passing attack has been flat-out unstoppable.
San Fran will slow Rodgers down, but the team will not stop him.
Prediction: Green Bay 20, San Francisco 17