By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos
Sat, 4:30pm, CBS
Line: Broncos by 10
Before I looked at the line, I had the Broncos winning this game 27-17, so apparently Vegas and I are thinking along the game lines. Outside of the 2005 season and 2006 playoffs when the Jake Plummer-led Broncos lost the AFC championship game at home to Pittsburgh, Denver hasnât had a Super Bowl shot like this since the John Elway years. Finally, they have a quarterback who can run a high-scoring offense, one that should give an old, tired Ravens defense some major problems. Ray Lewis can dance and gyrate all he wants before this game â itâll be Manning celebrating when itâs all over.
Pick: Denver 27, Baltimore 16
Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49âers
Sat, 8pm, FOX
Line: 49âers by 3
Yes, the 49âers are home. Yes, the 49âers have a stellar defense. Yes, the 49âers have a great young coach. Yes, the 49âers have an excellent running game. But yes, the 49âers are playing Colin Kaepernick at quarterback in a huge playoff game. Taking him against Aaron Rodgers, who has all of his receivers back at his disposal in addition to Charles Woodsonâs return on the other side of the ball, would just be pure folly.
Pick: Green Bay 24, San Francisco 21
Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons
Sun, 1pm, FOX
Line: Falcons by 2.5
Finally today, someone (Scott Van Pelt) mentioned the difficulty of flying west to east for the Seahawks in back-to-back weeks. Plus, if Atlanta is ever going to make a move, this is the game to do it. Quite frankly, this is Falcons-Redskins if Robert Griffin III either stays healthy or Mike Shanahan pulls him for Kirk Cousins. Iâm still not buying into Seattle as a legitimate Super Bowl team, but I do fear this shaping up like my playoff picks in 2006 when I went 7-4 and missed all four Steelers games in route to Bill Cowher and Jerome Bettisâ championship year. Still, the Falcons are loaded on offense and primed to finally break through with a playoff victory.
Pick: Atlanta 21, Seattle 17
Houston Texans @ New England Patriots
Sun, 4:30pm, CBS
Line: Patriots by 10
This was a blowout in the regular season, in case you havenât heard already. This one should be closer, if for no other reason than the Texans are significantly better than they showed in Foxboro in Week 14. On the other side, as good as Brady and Belichick have been in the playoffs, theyâre actually 2-4 in their last six playoff games, starting with the 2008 Super Bowl loss to the Giants that prevented the perfect season. All six of those games have also been at home, with losses to the Ravens (â10) and Jets (â11) to go with the two Super Bowl defeats to Big Blue. I only say all of this to point out that Houston actually should be given a legitimate chance to learn from their regular season mistakes and potentially pull a stunner here, because thatâs a very talented football team that at one point was 11-1. If Arian Foster can break some big runs like Ray Rice and Shonne Greene did against the Pats defense, this could turn into a long night for New England. The only problem is that Matt Schaub canât win a shootout with Tom Brady, and I think this game will feature some points considering the relatively warm conditions for Massachusetts in January.
Pick: New England 34, Houston 20
Against Spread: 1-3
Against Spread: 134-115-7
Against Spread: 135-118-7
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