By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) After a lackluster Wild Card weekend featuring wins by all four favorites, here’s hoping the divisional round is more entertaining. On paper, it appears there will be two blowouts in the AFC, and two intriguing matchups in the NFC. Here’s my take on how this weekend’s action will play out.
(Home team in all CAPS)
BRONCOS 31, Ravens 20 – Saturday 3:35PM
Including the playoffs, Peyton Manning has racked up nine straight wins against the Ravens. That, my friends, is what you call a trend. Winners of 11 straight, no team entered the playoffs with more momentum than the Broncos. Will the two week layoff affect the Broncos? Doubtful. Maybe for a quarter. The Ravens have a sporadic offense, and a defense living on reputation. The 34 points the Broncos put up on the Ravens four weeks ago was the most scored by a visiting team in Baltimore since 2010. We’ve seen Ray Lewis’ last dance, as Peyton makes it 10 straight against the Ravens.
Packers 24, 49ERS 20 – Saturday 7:05 PM
When these two teams met in Week 1, I called that game a potential NFC Championship preview. To me, the winner of this game will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, so essentially, it is. The 49ers pounded the Packers into submission with a dominant outside running attack, but 18 weeks later, these are much different teams. The Packers have found their offensive identity, and the 49ers made a quarterback change. With Dom Capers looming, we’ll see if said quarterback change was the right call. Playoff football is about quarterback play, so I’m taking the Packers in what could be an instant classic.
Seahawks 23, FALCONS 21 – Sunday 12:05 PM
All season long, I’ve maintained the Falcons gaudy record is a misnomer, and they’re a soft No. 1 seed. They don’t effectively rush the passer, and can’t run the ball in short yardage, which will get you beat in the playoffs. This weekend will prove if I was onto something or not. The Falcons are primarily a passing offense, but the Seahawks secondary is skilled enough to match up with them man-to-man, although Brandon Browner can be beat. Russell Wilson already bested Aaron Rodgers (sort of) and Tom Brady this season, after Sunday you can add Matt Ryan to the list.
PATRIOTS 34, Texans 17 – Sunday 3:35 PM
The last time these two teams met, the game was over in fewer than 10 minutes of game time, without the services of Rob Gronkowski, mind you. Will it be different this time around? No, no it won’t. I picked the Bengals in an upset last weekend, which didn’t come true, but it also didn’t change my opinion of the Texans, who simply aren’t in the same class as the Patriots. There were plays to be made in the passing game that Andy Dalton missed on, but Tom Brady won’t. I foresee big games from the Patriots tight ends, setting up quite an AFC Championship game.
Dan Durkin joined The Score’s columnist community after finishing runner-up in the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he was a member of the men’s football team (despite his best efforts to join the women’s team). Dan is a longtime Scorehead, known as Dan in Wicker Park – even though he no longer resides in Wicker Park – who will be sharing NFL analysis and opinions. You can follow Dan on Twitter @djdurkin. To read more of Dan’s blogs click here.