The NFL Divisional Round will get off to a raucous start on Saturday with two big-time games. First, at 4:30 p.m. ET, the Baltimore Ravens will take on the Denver Broncos followed by Green Bay vs. San Francisco at 8 p.m. ET.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos
The Ravens and Broncos will start things off on Saturday afternoon. They've already met once this season in Week 15, when Peyton Manning and the Broncos won 34-17.
These teams ended the regular season in very different ways. The Ravens lost four of their last five games while the Broncos won their last 11.
The Ravens got a big 24-9 victory over the Colts in the Wild Card Round and were joined again by their motivational leader Ray Lewis, who was finally cleared to play after missing most of the season with an injury.
The Broncos come in to this game as the No. 1 seed in the AFC and one of the hottest teams in the entire NFL. Peyton Manning has led Denver to the fifth-best passing attack in the NFL, and he's supported by a Bronco defense that is the third-best in both run and pass defense.
The Ravens have their work cut out for them on Saturday. The only way the Ravens will be able to compete is if their defense can get to Manning and force turnovers, if Ray Rice and Joe Flacco can get going early and if Jacoby Jones can help the Ravens get solid field position through kick and punt returns.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, the Broncos are simply too good.
PREDICTION: Broncos win 21-3 as the Ravens defense holds Manning to two or three touchdowns, but Flacco can't get the offense rolling.
Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers and the Packers will meet on Saturday for their second time this season. For Green Bay, the first meeting didn't go so hot. The Packers lost 30-22 to the now-No. 2 seed in the NFC.
The 49ers tore the Packers up on the ground in September, rushing for over 180 yards on the ground. Alex Smith played very well, going 20-of-26 for 211 yards and two touchdowns, which was good for a 125.6 quarterback rating. Smith had a higher rating than his counterpart Aaron Rodgers, who threw an interception and couldn't connect on enough long passes downfield to get a victory.
As these teams meet on Saturday night, the tables have turned. While the 49ers received the first-round bye, the Packers have been on a roll. Green Bay's big-play defense has performed much better over the last few weeks, and more importantly, the Packer defense has got some of their big names back from injuries, including Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson.
The Packers have also found a running game in the last few weeks, which could be the difference on Saturday night. The Packers have reaped the benefits from a re-energized (and re-signed) Ryan Grant and DuJuan Harris in the backfield.
The Packers newfound running game has opened things up for Rodgers and the passing game, which has helped the Packers score at least 21 in almost every game this season.
PREDICTION: Packers win 35-21. Kaepernick will make a few bad throws to a very talented Packer defense and won't be able to keep up with A-Rodg and the Packers' talented receivers.
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