With Wild Card Weekend behind us and the divisional round of the 2013 NFL playoffs upon us, it's time to take a look at the matchups that will decide each game in the second round of this postseason.
Keep an eye on these battles as you tune in to this weekend's games.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos
When: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Matchup to Watch: Peyton Manning vs. Baltimore Secondary
Manning has been having an MVP-caliber season, and he'll look to continue that in Denver after having last week off.
The Ravens rank in the bottom half of the NFL in passing yards allowed, giving up 228.1 per game. The Broncos, on the other hand, rank fifth in passing yards per contest with 283.4.
Baltimore's defense has struggled this season compared to previous ones, and it will be interesting to see how the team tries to stop Manning on Saturday.
Baltimore's aging secondary is going to have some problems with Manning and the Broncos' aerial assault, as Ed Reed and Co. get picked apart, and the Broncos win in a blowout.
Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers
When: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Candlestick Park
Matchup to Watch: Colin Kaepernick vs. Green Bay Defense
This is the second time that the 49ers and Packers will face off this season, with San Francisco winning on the road in Week 1. However, Alex Smith was the starting quarterback for the 49ers in that game, and this time, it will be Kaepernick.
Green Bay's defense has been playing very well as of late, surrendering more than 20 points just twice since Week 6. However, during that time, the team did not face a quarterback as mobile as Kaepernick, and it will be interesting to see how the team approaches its containment of him.
While I could have talked about Aaron Rodgers facing San Francisco's secondary or how the 49ers will need to run the ball effectively, the most important matchup will be this one.
If Kaepernick plays well, expect San Francisco to advance to the conference finals, but if he struggles, the team's season will end early.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons
When: Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 1 p.m. ET
Where: Georgia Dome
Matchup to Watch: Seattle's O-Line vs. Atlanta's D-line
Rookie sensation Russell Wilson was on fire entering the postseason, but the Washington Redskins found a way to limit the damage from him in the Wild Card Round. The Seahawks still won, but we learned how to stop Wilson.
By getting through the Seahawks' offensive line and putting pressure on Wilson, the Redskins disrupted his rhythm. The Redskins sacked him five times and held him to just 187 passing yards and one score because of this pressure, but the Falcons will have problems duplicating it.
Atlanta ranks 28th in the league in sacks per game whereas the Seahawks are in the top half of the league in sacks allowed.
If Atlanta gives Wilson too much time to throw, he will pick apart the team's 21st-ranked pass defense or run around its 23rd-ranked run defense.
If Seattle can give Wilson time and create holes for Marshawn Lynch to run through, we will see the Seahawks win their seven consecutive game on Sunday.
Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots
When: Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Where: Gillette Stadium
Matchup to Watch: Can the Texans stop Tom Brady?
If you remember the last time that these two teams met, there's no explanation needed for this one, but in case you live under a rock and missed it, I'll elaborate.
Tom Brady had a field day against the Texans in Week 14, as the Pats rolled to a 42-14 victory (and it was just as bad as last night's BCS National Championship Game). He completed 21-of-35 passes for 296 yards and four scores.
Brady picked apart the Texans with ease, and he got to watch the end of the game comfortably on the bench.
In this game, we are going to see if the Texans have learned from their mistakes and know how to stop Brady, and that will be the matchup to watch.
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