Who wins today? Go with the Broncos and 49ers

January 12, 2013, 8:30 am
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Predictions are like opinions -- everyone's got 'em. And with the NFL's second season continuing Saturday -- we were three-for-four last weekend -- the divisional round is upon us. As such, here's how today's playoff games should go down…

AFC No. 4 Baltimore Ravens (11-6) at AFC No. 1 Denver Broncos (13-3)
CBS, 1:30 p.m. PT
Peyton Manning versus Ray Lewis and really, it does not get any better than this for pure football fans, even if the celebrations for Lewis last week were a tad over the top and revisionist considering his off-the-field history. Still, Lewis trying to fend off retirement against the revitalized Manning will be high drama in the Mile High City. Especially since the Broncos already throttled the Ravens this season, 34-17, on Dec. 16 in Baltimore.

And keep in mind, for all of his brilliance -- Manning competed neck to knee with Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson for three league awards in MVP, offensive player and comeback player -- Manning is just 9-10 in the postseason, while Lewis is 11-7. So for all of the star power involved here, the game may actually revolve around a pair of relative no-name receivers in Baltimore's Anquan Boldin and Denver's Eric Decker. In last week's wild card defeat of Indianapolis, Boldin's 145 receiving yards after halftime were the most in the second half since Jerry Rice had 157 in 1989. Decker, meanwhile, caught eight passes for 133 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown, against the Ravens last month.

Simply put, the Broncos have the homefield advantage and, yes, the better defense. Say goodnight, Ray Ray.
The prediction: Broncos 24, Ravens 13

NFC No. 3 Green Bay Packers (12-5) at NFC No. 2 49ers (11-4-1)
Fox, 5 p.m. PT
A Clinton-era postseason rivalry -- the 49ers and Packers met in the playoffs every year from 1995 through 1998 -- is renewed, and neither team really resembles the ones that met on opening weekend, a 30-22 49ers victory at Lambeau Field. And for all of the changes on both sides of the ball on, well, both sidelines, it really boils down to this -- can the Packers, who had the NFL's No. 20-ranked rush defense, stop the 49ers' No. 4-ranked rushing attack? If not, expect a similar result to kickoff weekend.

If the 49ers have success early running Frank Gore, who ran for 112 yards on 16 carries in the opener, that opens up more lanes for quarterback Colin Kaepernick as well as play-action, which would then put deep threat Randy Moss into play. And Moss' 14 career touchdowns against the Packers are the most by any player in NFL history against Green Bay.

The Packers offense, meanwhile, has been humming of late. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has not thrown an interception in his last 177 pass attempts over five games and the Packers' running game has been given the offense balance with an unexpected boost from the diminutive DuJuan Harris. The wild card in all of this, though, is 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith. If his triceps injury allows him to disrupt Rodgers, the 49ers should escape.
The prediction: 49ers 31, Packers 30

What's your prediction, and why? Best one will be selected and called out on the front page. Good luck!