NFL playoffs: Divisional games preview


Baltimore Ravens (11-6) at Denver Broncos (13-3), 4:30 p.m., Saturday, CBS

The Skinny: The Ravens were fortunate to get past the Colts' new quarterback last week. If Donnie Avery doesn't drop a third-down pass, the Colts appeared poised to make it an eighth fourth-quarter comeback victory for Andrew Luck. The Ravens won't be as fortunate this time. Not against the former Colts quarterback, Peyton Manning, who already dissected them once this season. The Broncos have not lost since Oct. 7 and scored 30 or more points in nine of the final 11 games.

Prediction: Broncos, 28-17

Houston Texans (13-4) at New England Patriots (12-4), 4:30 p.m., Sunday, CBS

The Skinny: Nobody is giving the Texans much of a chance, not after they were overwhelmed and dismantled in New England during the regular season. And the reason is simple: They are not built to play from behind and keep up with a team like the Patriots. Arian Foster, the first player in league history to rush for over 100 yards in his first three playoff games, was a non-factor in the first meeting. But it is more important for quarterback Matt Schaub to be a factor in this game. A big factor.

Prediction: Patriots, 31-19


Green Bay Packers (12-5) at San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1), 8 p.m., Saturday, Fox

The Skinny: History has shown that all the recent Super Bowl winners are the teams with all the top quarterbacks. And there is only one of those left in the NFC -- Aaron Rodgers. The Packers are down to a running back, DuJuan Harris, who was cut from the Steelers training camp. But that doesn't seem to matter with Rodgers. The 49ers, meantime, might find out quickly that the midseason decision to replace Alex Smith with Colin Kaepernick was not a good one. It was Smith who outperformed Rodgers way back in the season opener.

Prediction: Packers, 27-23

Seattle Seahawks (12-5) at Atlanta Falcons (13-3), 1 p.m., Sunday, Fox

The Skinny: The Seahawks showed their resiliency last week when they overcame a 14-0 deficit against the Redskins and did something they didn't do with regularity during the regular season -- win on the road. Now they have to travel back to the East Coast for a game that will feel like a 10 a.m. start to their West Coast bodies, and that's never easy. The Falcons were sporadic late in the season, going 3-2 in their final five games. And sometimes teams with a bye have a problem regaining their form after a week off, especially early. They will need to finish strong against the Seahawks, or else.

Prediction: Falcons, 28-24

(Contact Gerry Dulac at Dulac posted a 180-87 (.674) record with his NFL predictions last season. Last week he was 4-0 (1.000); this season he's164-96 (.631).)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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