Last Week: 4-0 (1.000); Playoff Total: 4-0, (1.000); This Season: 173-86-1 (.667)
Saturday, Jan. 12
4:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Baltimore Ravens (11-6) at Denver Broncos (13-3)
Love the Baltimore shakeup on the offensive line, re-inserting a newly motivated (at least for now) Bryant McKinnie at left tackle; he played a dominant game against the Colts, keeping Joe Flacco free of Dwight Freeney, and I don't doubt he'll play very competitively against Elvis Dumervil here. But this is Peyton Manning we're talking about, Manning on a mission with the kind of skill players that match his best days in Indianapolis. And it's Manning with a nine-game win streak against the Ravens (including playoffs). He's won those nine by an average of 14 points per game. I understand the emotion of playing for Ray Lewis, but unless the Ravens force three or more turnovers (and that's possible, if last week's effort is any indication), I don't see them holding Manning down.
8 p.m. ET (FOX)
Green Bay Packers (12-5) at San Francisco 49ers">49ers (11-4-1)
Game of the weekend. Aaron Rodgers finally gets to play in a real game at Candlestick Park. To win, he's going to have to do what a quarterback he loved growing up, Steve Young, did in these parts for years: throw efficiently on the run. San Francisco knows the way to win this game is to hit Rodgers and be physical with his cadre of top receivers. The one vision I have from last week's game against Minnesota is Rodgers twice running at a full gallop out of the pocket and flicking a dead-on accurate pass 15 yards or more downfield. Not that I don't think Colin Kaepernick can't do the same -- he'll be in Clay Matthews' sights all night -- but throwing accurately outside the pocket, with the posse chasing ... Rodgers is the best in football at it right now.
Sunday, Jan. 13
1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Seattle Seahawks (12-5) at Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
Most significant NFL Wednesday injury report line: "ATL - DE John Abraham (ankle), limited." He'd better not be limited Sunday, two weeks after what looked to be worse than the apparently nasty ankle sprain Abraham suffered in the last game of the season. Not quite sure why, with Seattle missing its best pass rusher (Chris Clemons, torn ACL on the FedEx cow pasture last week) and Abraham likely not at full health, I pick only 30 points to be scored here. I think both secondaries will play stout and smart, and the physicality of the Seattle back four (or five, or six) will have a big impact on the game.
4:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Houston Texans (13-4) at New England Patriots (12-4)
I want to believe it can be different than New England's 42-14 rout of the Texans (28-0 after 36 minutes), and I believe it will be different. For the Texans, though, not different enough. Teams don't like to be embarrassed, and the Dan Shaughnessy comparison to the Texans as "tomato cans" in his Boston Globe column will be ringing in the players' ears by the time the ball's kicked off. But the only way, other than a Patriots turnover-fest, that I can see Houston winning this game is to use the same recipe as last week against Cincinnati: a heavy dose of Arian Foster. Foster ran it 32 times and caught it eight times last week, and the same thing here will limit Tom Brady's possessions and his chances to beat up the Houston secondary. It's possible; Foster's a back who can wear a defense down. But this is a game where it'd all have to go right for Houston to win.
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