Baltimore Ravens (10-6) at Denver Broncos (13-3)
1:30 p.m., Ch. 7
The line: Broncos by 91/2.
Never miss a local story.
Key stats: Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who is retiring after this season, his 17th, is 11-7 in playoff games. … Ravens safety Ed Reed has eight career postseason interceptions, tied for fourth most in NFL history. … The Ravens’ Joe Flacco is the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win playoff game in each of his first five seasons. He has a postseason record of 6-4. … The Broncos held Ravens running back Ray Rice to 38 yards rushing and 3 yards receiving on Dec. 16 in a 34-17 Denver win. … The Broncos are the sixth team since 1970 to finish a season with 11 or more straight victories. … Broncos QB Peyton Manning ranks third on all-time list for playoff yards passing (5,389). Manning’s 37 TD passes and 105.8 passer rating led the AFC this season. … The four-time league MVP is 9-10 in postseason games.
The buzz: Almost all signs point to a comfortable Broncos win. (Well, as comfy as a win can be played in low-20s temperatures.) Denver has won 11 in a row, is coming off a bye, is 13-3 all-time at home in the postseason, and neatly handled Baltimore 34-17 only a month ago. Oh, and Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning. Now here is the one sign that suggests caution on the comfy-easy-rout stuff: When the kickoff temperature is below 40, Manning uncharacteristically is 0-3 in the playoffs — with one TD and seven picks. Could be why he’ll reportedly wear a glove on his throwing hand today. Baltimore is much healthier now with four starters back who didn’t play in the teams’ first meeting, including Lewis. Besides, any team on an 11-game win streak is messing with the law of averages and might be at least due a struggle or scare.
The pick: Give Manning an extra week to prepare, and the Broncos are not going to lose this game at home. Broncos, 31-23.
Green Bay Packers (11-5) at San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)
5 p.m., Ch. 13
The line: 49ers by 3.
Key stats: The Packers have won four of the five previous meetings against the 49ers in the playoffs, including two of three at Candlestick Park. Overall, Green Bay has won 13 of its past 15 games against 49ers but dropped this year’s season opener at Lambeau Field, 30-22. … Packers QB and Northern California native Aaron Rodgers was passed on by the 49ers with the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005 as Alex Smith went first and Rodgers fell to 24th. … Rodgers has a 110-plus passer rating in four of his seven career postseason starts. That’s tied for fourth in league history behind Joe Montana (six in 23 starts), Brett Favre (five in 24 starts) and Tom Brady (five in 22 starts). … Rodgers hasn’t had an interception in five straight games, a streak of 177 passes. … San Francisco running back Frank Gore ran for 112 yards and a touchdown in the season opener. … 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith went the final three games without sack after compiling 191/2 in the first 13 games. … Wide receiver Randy Moss’ 14 touchdown catches against Green Bay are the most by any player in NFL history against the Packers.
The buzz: These teams meet in the playoffs for the first time since 2001 in a heavyweight NFC duel, with the Packers owning the most all-time NFL championships (13) and San Francisco having the most division titles (16) since 1980. Rodgers grew up a 49ers fan, and Niners QB Colin Kaepernick is a Wisconsin native who grew up a Cheesehead. Weird, huh? But it is another contrast in the two quarterbacks who will shape this game that makes a Green Bay upset quite possible. Kaepernick is dipping his first toe in the playoff waters, and Rodgers all but owns this stage, with a 105.1 career postseason passer-rating feathered by 16 TDs and only four interceptions.
The pick: If Rodgers has time to throw, it could result in plenty of points for Green Bay. It seems unlikely that Kaepernick can keep up in a shootout with Rodgers. At least not yet. Packers, 34-27.
McClatchy news services