The NFL playoffs continue today and tomorrow with the divisional round, where eight teams compete to play for the conference championship games next week. Last weekend, all but one of the wildcard teams fell out of the competition, with only Seattle advancing into the divisional round. I went 3-1 in my picks last weekend, but the choices get tougher this weekend:
- Ravens at Broncos (4:30 pm ET, CBS) – Last week I picked Baltimore while rooting for Indianapolis. I won’t have that kind of dissonance today. Baltimore beat Indy but didn’t exactly dominate, and this week they have to play in Denver rather than at home. The Ravens are an average team on the road, going 4-4, but Denver went 7-1 at home under Peyton Manning. Baltimore can expect to see its defense improve with Ray Lewis back on the field, but Denver ranked third in the league against both the pass and the rush. Joe Flacco is simply not going to stack up against Manning, even if the defenses stack up against each other. Broncos 28, Ravens 17. (Biggest question mark: will Brent Musberger call this game, and will he spot all the hot QB wives in the stands?)
- Packers at 49ers (8 pm, FOX) – We have the same kind of matchup between road and home teams in this game, too. Green Bay went 4-4 on the road, and San Francisco went 6-1-1 at home. The difference in defenses is similar, too, even to the extent that having Charles Woodson back might mitigate the Packers’ deficit in relation to the 49ers. However, the 49ers still have a QB controversy percolating, and their passing game is only 23rd in the league. Aaron Rodgers has the 9th-best passing attack in the league, and fresh running backs to help balance the load. Plus, Rodgers has been here before, whereas Kaepernick is only getting his first taste of the pressure. I think the Pack finds a way to win this one, 31-28, maybe in OT.