Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
When the Denver Broncos won the Peyton Manning sweepstakes last offseason, team supporters wondered if he could stay healthy enough to guide the club into the playoffs. With that accomplished, the Broncos now look like a serious Super Bowl contender. Manning has been everything Denver has hoped for and more with 37 touchdowns and more than 4,600 passing yards. This week he’ll go up against another NFL icon in Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who’s looking to close out his career with a second Super Bowl ring.
“You give him what he wants? He beats you. You give him what he doesn’t want? Then you beat him,” Lewis told reporters of playing against Manning. “I think that’s the way the game always plays out against us every time we play each other. We’re back to one of those classic games again.”
Lewis and the Ravens might keep Manning from completely lighting them up, but he’ll still move the chains. Denver’s defence still doesn’t get the respect it deserves – thanks to all the attention Manning gets – but the Broncos ranked third in both passing and rushing defence in the regular season. That will be the difference as Manning says goodbye to Lewis for the last time. Even with Denver set as a 9.5-point favourite, ride the Broncos. Final score prediction: Denver 30, Baltimore 17.
Pack it in
Sure, give the Packers credit for avenging their Week 17 loss to Minnesota by pounding the Vikings last weekend. But let’s not go overboard. The Packers faced Joe Webb, a quarterback that hadn’t taken a snap all season, allowing them to focus entirely on stopping the run. They’ll be stretched much thinner against the 49ers. Now that Colin Kaepernick is taking snaps for San Francisco, opposing teams have to respect the deep ball.
“He’s shown a lot, just for stepping in when he did,” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams told reporters of Kaepernick. “Some of the throws that he makes, some of the reads that he makes, he’s kind of before his time you could say right now. He’s doing an excellent job for his team.” With two weeks of rest, it’s hard to overlook the 49ers and their impressive defence. They’ll pound the ball on the ground and Kaepernick will make enough throws to keep Green Bay off balance. That’s all San Francisco bettors should need to cover the three points. Final score prediction: San Francisco 26, Green Bay 21.