Here's my predictions:
The Ravens "Win One for Ray" Odyssey goes to Mile High to face the Broncos and the rejuvenated Peyton Manning. The Broncos sport the #4 offense and #2 defense in the NFL hence the large spread. The Ravens are middle of the road on both sides of the ball, #16 on offense and #17 on defense. (All based on yds/game) Throw in the fact the Broncos just beat the Ravens 34-17 in Baltimore a few weeks ago and its pretty hard not to take the Broncos.
Key Match-up: RB Ray Rice vs. LB Von Miller
RB Ray Rice has to have a big game for the Ravens to keep up with the Broncos as he was shut down in their regular season match-up. He is key not only to scoring points but keeping Manning off the field. Much of the responsibility for containing Rice will fall on SLB Von Miller, who plays close to the line but has the speed to cover Rice in the open field. If Rice can log 150 combined yards and a couple scores the Ravens have a chance...albeit a slim one.
In the end even Ray Lewis' most inspirational pre-game speech won't help the mistake-prone Ravens win this one. The Broncos will once again dominate on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: Broncos 38 Ravens 24
This is another match-up what we saw during the regular season in which the 49ers beat the Packers 30-22 in their season opener. Yet the 49ers have switched QBs since that time and Green Bay offense is playing much better.
49ers: #11 offense, #3 defense
Packers: #13, #11 defense
Key Match-up: RB Frank Gore vs. Packers LBs
In the first game Gore ran all over the Packers so containing the rush remains a top priority for the defense. I still think the Packer offense will struggle against the stout 49 defense but the key will be giving Rodgers enough chances to put up enough points for the win. If the 49ers can run the ball then that reduces Rodgers chances while also taking the pressure off the rookie QB Colin Kaepernick.
Yet I don't think that is going to happen. The Packers showed last week that when they don't have to respect the pass they can shut down the run; reference last weeks shut down of AP. That will then put the pressure on the rookie QB who I agree is a much better passer than Joe Webb but will still make rookie mistakes. Mistakes that wily vets like S Charles Woodson capitalize on in the playoffs. I think the Packers will make the 49ers pay for those mistakes with multiple points so I'm calling the upset.
Prediction: Packers 24 49ers 20
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