Found January 08, 2013 on Fox Sports:
Every single football fan without a 410 or 713 area code seems to want Brady vs. Manning next weekend, but I'm not quite ready to etch CBS's dream AFC Championship matchup in stone. I'm on an island this week and this island is littered with crab cakes, Jim Palmer stories and Barry Levinson movie references. This island may have some destiny on it, too. Yes, I like the Ravens to upset the Broncos in Denver on Saturday afternoon. And it's not even because I am blown away by Baltimore. Truthfully, I'm just not sold on Denver. Huh? I'm not supposed to pour ice cold water all over what the Broncos have accomplished this season. After all, Peyton Manning's re-emergence and the silencing of his doubters has been one of football's great stories this year. After undergoing four surgeries and missing 18 months from the football field, Manning was the best quarterback in the league during the 2012 regular season. When the Broncos were 4-3, I predicted in this very column that they'd win nine straight games to finish out the year. They did. And they did so in dominant fashion, too, becoming the first team in NFL history to win 10 straight games by at least seven points. Denver was so overpowering over the season's second half that it's difficult to recall that back in September, this was a very average team. Denver was beaten on a Monday night in Atlanta in Week 2, handled at home by the Texans in Week 4 and outcoached and outmanned by the Patriots in Week 5. Since that Week 5 game against New England, I hate to break this -- they haven't really played anyone. Outside of Baltimore and Cincinnati -- two teams that were struggling mightily prior to facing Denver -- the Broncos' opponents since Week 5 had a combined record of 32-64 this season. Sweeping the NFC North or the NFC East is a major accomplishment. A statement. Beating Oakland, Kansas City, and San Diego twice isn't exactly sacking Rome. The NFL did the Broncos no favors scheduling the bulk of their toughest opponents in the first five weeks of the NFL season. And though the NFL scheduling gods would never admit to this, that was likely done intentionally. There was intrigue around Manning's return; so much intrigue that the NFL propped Manning and the Broncos up as an unofficial "America's Team" in the season's first two months. Denver faced its four toughest opponents before Columbus Day. They were featured on national television in each of their first seven games: Week 1 vs. Pittsburgh -- Sunday night Week 2 vs. Atlanta -- Monday night Week 3 vs. Houston -- 4 p.m. ET national CBS game Week 4 vs. Oakland -- 4 p.m. ET national CBS game Week 5 vs. New England -- 4 p.m. ET national CBS game Week 6 vs. San Diego -- Monday night Week 7 -- BYE Week 8 vs. New Orleans -- Sunday night Since that stretch, Denver's opponents haven't exactly been Murderer's Row. Yes, they blew all these teams out. And sure, Manning and the defense looked as good as they had all season against the Ravens in Week 15. But Baltimore's been tested and knocked around over the past few months. They've been in close games. They've been forced to dig deep and pull victories out. They had to beat a good Giants team in a must-win game and did. They had to beat a hot Colts team a week ago and did. The Ravens are no doubt battle tested. Denver? They've been in cruise control since October. If Saturday's game is close in the second half, are we certain the Broncos will respond under pressure? I know Baltimore's been through those wars this year. Denver? Eh, it feels like it's been decades since they've faced any sort of adversity. For the first time all season, Baltimore's actually healthy on defense, too. With the exception of Lardarius Webb and potentially linebacker Danell Elerbee, all of Baltimore's key defensive stars will be in action, ready to go. Last Sunday's 24-9 win over the Colts marked the only game this season that the Baltimore defense had Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Ed Reed in the lineup together. They all played well. Younger veterans Paul Kruger and Corey Graham played even better. Baltimore isn't supposed to win Saturday's game in Denver. If Las Vegas sportsbooks are any sort of indication, this game's not even supposed to be close. But I covered a Steelers team that rode a veteran's last ride into Indianapolis and beat Peyton Manning in the 2005 divisional round. I covered a Giants team last year that waltzed into Lambeau and Salsa danced out as victors. I was in that Ravens locker room on Sunday. There was a certain unity -- a certain desperation -- that reminded me of both of those teams. I could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time. But I like Baltimore on Saturday. Who's with me? (Crickets ... ) That's cool. I've got my crab cakes and a Brady Anderson jersey. Wild card week record: 3-1 Overall playoff record: 3-1 Divisional round trivia question of the week : Alex Smith was the first quarterback selected in the 2005 NFL Draft. Aaron Rodgers was the second quarterback selected in the 2005 NFL Draft. Who was the third quarterback selected in the 2005 NFL Draft? Saturday Baltimore at Denver: For the shoddy reasons listed above, I'm taking the Ravens. Peyton Manning has won his last nine games against Baltimore, including the two times he's faced the Ravens in the playoffs. Throw it all out the window. Here's your big upset special. The Pick: Ravens 27, Broncos 20 Green Bay at San Francisco: I'm riding the Packers all the way to the Super Bowl this year. After a somewhat surprising shaky start to the regular season, Green Bay has finally found itself and is peaking at the right time. They're healthy across the board, with Charles Woodson, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and Randall Cobb all making major contributions last weekend. A younger, less experienced team -- I'd be skeptical about having to play this one on the road in Candlestick. But this unit is used to this. After all, they won three road games en route to the Lombardi just two years ago. Justin Smith is the x-factor in this one. If he's not 100 percent and is not his usual self, I like Aaron Rodgers to get the best of an excellent San Francisco defense. The Pick: Packers 27, 49ers 23 Sunday Seattle at Atlanta: There should be an official rule on quarterback nicknames. You shouldn't be allowed to have one until you win a playoff game. So RG3? You're still Robert Griffin III. For now. And Matt Ryan? You're not "Matty Ice" or "The Matt-ador" or anything else until you do something in the month of January. Despite a 33-4 record at home in his career and a Pro Bowl nod this year, no one's buying Ryan as a top-tier quarterback until he actually wins a game that matters. I've been hating on the Falcons all year long, even saying, "Show me something in January" after a 34-0 victory over the defending Super Bowl champs. Well, January is finally here. And guess what? I'm taking the Seahawks. I think Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman match up well with Julio Jones and Roddy White and I'm just not convinced these Falcons are tough enough to win in a big spot on Sunday. If Ryan wins this one, I promise I'll refer to him as "Matty Ice" or whatever clever nickname the Falcons fans want me to call him next week. The Pick: Seahawks 29, Falcons 16 Houston at New England: Arian Foster's over-the-top concern with what Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy had to say about the Texans threw me off a bit. The writer wrote, "All the Patriots have to do is beat the terrible Texans," in his column last Sunday. Foster, then, used the column as his avatar on Twitter. I don't know. Could you imagine Tom Brady or Vince Wilfork doing that? Matt Schaub won his first career playoff start last week, but there was no indication that this team is any better than the squad that lost 42-14 at Gillette Stadium a month ago. The Patriots will win, and they'll win big. The Pick: Patriots 31, Texans 16 Divisional round trivia answer: Jason Campbell, taken just one pick after Aaron Rodgers, was the third quarterback chosen in the 2005 NFL Draft. The fourth? Charlie Frye out of Akron.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
RELATED ARTICLES

NFL Playoffs: Denver Broncos host the Baltimore Ravens Saturday

In an AFC Divisional showdown, the Denver Broncos, winners of 11 games in a row, host the Baltimore Ravens Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET, CBS) in what should be the final game in Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis’ career. I said should be…based on a lot of facts and figures. Before I get into the analysis of Saturday’s game, allow me one quick word about Lewis and one about the nickname...

What If Peyton Manning Had Landed In San Francisco?

Halfway through the frenzied Peyton Manning free agency saga, Manning stopped in Raleigh, NC to work out with David Cutcliffe—his mentor and former offensive coordinator at Tennessee. Discretion was critical because Manning’s travel itinerary was more scrutinized then Santa’s on Christmas Eve. No wonder Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman—San Francisco’s head coach and offensive...

Gisele Bündchen: Sexiest NFL WAG

When Tom Brady goes home, this is what he gets to play with.

The Broncos are ready to take down the aging Ravens defense. Divisional round preview.

Peyton Manning is ready to light-up the old Ravens defense this weekend.   The Wildcard round provided us with one really good game and three pretty poor ones.  Here's a first look at the Divisional Round Baltimore vs Denver - The Ravens were able to beat a young Colts team but it was not an impressive victory.  Yes Flacco threw for 282yds, but he was 12-23 which is...

Tom Brady’s Awesome Sauce

I pour awesome on top of awesome Juan… See more Funny Pics here  

Anybody feel like a little TFB video for the afternoon? Tom...

Anybody feel like a little TFB video for the afternoon? Tom Brady - The Quest For Number 4 (by Paul Morris)

Brady Close To Another Big Record

Hot News for QB Tom Brady

Epic chess match between Ray Lewis and Peyton Manning in Denver...

Nobody in the NFL studies more opponents' game film than Ray Lewis or Peyton Manning. And a lot of Saturday's playoff result at Mile High Stadium in Denver will come down to a chess match and a downright guessing game between these two wise veterans.         "I know Peyton very well," said Lewis. "And he knows me and us very...

Bill Belichick, Tom Brady Each One of a Kind, Meaning Patriots Fans Shouldn’t Waste Time Looking Ahead

Editor’s note: Each day during the week of Dec. 31, NESN.com will feature content based on key events from Robert Kraft’s tenure as owner of the Patriots. “Krafting a Legacy” will examine how the Patriots got to where they are today following Kraft’s purchase of the team. All good things must come to an end. So must all great things, which Patriots fans will someday learn...

2013 NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Fantasy Football QB Rankings

Here are the fantasy football quarterback rankings for the divisional round of the 2013 NFL playoffs. 1. Tom Brady (New England Patriots) Andy Dalton was kept in check against the Texans in wildcard weekend, but Brady is a different animal.  Though Tom Brady and company won’t be as deadly as the 42-14 blowout in Week 14 where Tom Terrific tossed four touchdowns with 296 yards...

Expect Pressure on Tom Brady

Expect Houston Texan's defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to get creative with blitzes against Tom Brady on Sunday. Phillips is known for being an aggressive defensive mind who likes to get pressure on the opposition's quarterback. Logan Mankins knows more than anyone that the offensive line needs to stay sharp in order to protect Brady.“He’s an aggressive coach, he...

The NFL MVP Debate … And Why The Guy Who Should Win It Probably Won’t

As we head into the weekend of Divisional round play in the NFL, most fans and pundits are focusing their attention, and rightly so, on the four matchups that will take place this Saturday and Sunday. At the same time, there is an awful lot of focus on the coaching merry-go-round; determining who is to blame for the knee injury suffered by Redskins’ quarterback RGIII; and which...

BCS National Championship Game Prediction

The 2012 NCAA Football season was an exciting one for Notre Dame and Irish fans. Living in Indianapolis, I can say that it’s been an exciting year. Super Bowl back in February, Colts lose Peyton Manning and gain Andrew Luck, Colts have a surprisingly good season at 11-5, Indiana Hoosiers basketball is back up in [...]The post BCS National Championship Game Prediction appeared first...

Broncos coach Fox stands by decision

John Fox would tell Peyton Manning to take the knee again. John Elway, of all people, agreed with that call. Given the ball at his 20 with 31 seconds, two timeouts and one of the best quarterbacks in the game, the Broncos coach decided to run out the clock and head to overtime. Result: Baltimore 38, Denver 35. End of season in Broncoland. Fox said he felt good about the decision...

Five reasons the Patriots will win Sunday

Revenge is a dish best served cold. The Houston Texans no doubt are looking for for some revenge for the week 14 beating they took at the hands of the New England Patriots. While the Texans may be looking for revenge, the Patriots will likely come out on top again. Here's why:Rob Gronkowski: Gronk didn't play in the 42-14 ass-whooping that the Pats laid on Houston early in...
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.