Wild Card Weekend is history, and now it's time for the top-seeded teams in the AFC and NFC to enter the playoff fray. The stakes couldn't be higher in the divisional round, with the right to play on Championship Sunday on the line. Let's take a closer look at all four games.
The Broncos won at Baltimore in Week 15, 34-17 -- it wasn't that close -- and have had two weeks to ponder the rematch. So the Ravens get Peyton Manning in Denver, with the Broncos riding an 11-game winning streak, in what could be Ray Lewis' last NFL game. It's the matchup the Ravens say they wanted. Uh, OK. Maybe if it were 2001. That's the last time the Ravens defeated Peyton.
Player to watch
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos: This isn't a vintage Ravens rushing defense. The Indianapolis Colts ran for 152 yards against the Ravens last Sunday, and Moreno had his best game of the season against Baltimore four weeks ago (21 carries, 115 yards, 1 TD), at one point hurdling over Ed Reed. If the Ravens can't stop Moreno, they'll find the sledding rough in Denver. Peyton, at home, with a rushing attack? Forget about it.
Ray Rice, RB, Ravens: How could Rice have forgiven himself if his two fumbles had doomed the Ravens -- and Ray Lewis -- against the Colts on Wild Card Weekend? Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin are unlikely to find the same success they did against Indy -- the Broncos have the best pass rush (52 sacks) and second-best pass defense in the league -- so Baltimore has to run the ball and sustain drives. Surely, Rice will get more than the 12 carries (for 38 yards) he had in Week 15. What does he do with them?
Matchup to watch
Ray Lewis vs. Peyton Manning: We should appreciate this: Two iconic players facing off for the final time. Lewis, 37, turned back the clock with his team-leading 13 tackles against the Colts. "The Return of Festivus," indeed. Peyton, 36, is still Peyton, even after neck surgery. For Lewis & Co., the emotional wave at Mile High simply won't compare to last Sunday in Baltimore. Right now, Peyton looks like a guy who would win the battle of wits against anyone. And for the record: Manning is 7-2 over his career against the Lewis-led Ravens, having taken each of the last seven matchups (including two in the playoffs).
Did you know?
The Broncos were the only team in the NFL that did not allow an opposing passer to throw for 300 yards in a game this season. ... Manning has thrown for 300-plus yards in eight postseason games, the most in NFL history. ... Flacco is the first quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons. ... Broncos kick/punt returner Trindon Holliday is undefeated this season on an individual level. Holliday was a member of the Houston Texans during their 5-0 start, then was released. Denver immediately picked him up and went 11-0 down the stretch.
Von Miller had the quietest 18.5 sacks in the league. Manning is emphasizing business as usual by saying this: "I've always tried to prepare every week as if it was a playoff game. That's your job, I think, as an NFL player." And the Broncos scored at least 30 points in seven of eight home games (with a 31-25 loss to the Texans in Week 3 being the lone outlier). It's been a great run, Ray.