The big boys are ready to roll

The records are gaudy. The star power is high. Here come the NFL’s big boys.

The records are gaudy. The star power is high.

Here come the NFL’s big boys.

Denver, Atlanta, New England and San Francisco host divisional playoff games this weekend. They’re a combined 49-14-1, and their rosters are filled with such headline grabbers as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Tony Gonzalez and Patrick Willis.

Their home-field advantages could be formidable, too. The Broncos, who have won 11 straight games, and Falcons each went 7-1; the 49ers were 6-1-1 and the Patriots 6-2.

None of which makes the Ravens, Seahawks, Texans or Packers quake in their cleats.

“That’s not in my mind at all going up to Denver,” said the Ravens’ Joe Flacco, the only quarterback to win a playoff game in his first five seasons. “We feel confident, and I think we should.”

Baltimore at Denver opens the weekend’s action, followed by Green Bay at San Francisco on Saturday night.

Sunday, Seattle is at Atlanta, then Houston goes to New England.

Ravens (11-6) at Broncos (13-3)

For all those impressive numbers, here’s a baffling one: four-time league Manning is a mere 9-10 in post-season games. Those wins and losses were compiled with the Colts, with whom he never had a defence like the one the Broncos possess.

That defence made a big difference when Denver won 34-17 at Baltimore in Week 15. A 98-yard interception return by Chris Harris at the end of the first half turned it into a rout.

“I really haven’t made a whole lot of comparisons, but our defence has been outstanding all year,” Manning said. “Our offence has fed off of our defence. I think that’s one of the best things this team has done. If the offence was in a rut, defence picked us up. The defence was bending a little bit, the offence picked them up. That’s what you’ve got to have, to me, as a team.”

The Manning-Ray Lewis matchups through the years have been intriguing, and this will be the final one. Baltimore’s emotional leader announced his retirement days before he had 13 tackles in his last home game, a 24-9 wild-card victory over Indianapolis.

“They are always classic,” Lewis said. “It’s just one of those chess matches. He knows me very well. I know him very well. … But at the end of the day, it’s not about me and me and Peyton. It’s about their team against our team. I love our team right now.”

Packers (12-5) at 49ers (11-4-1)

Another rematch, but from so long ago: San Francisco won 30-22 in the opener, at Lambeau Field.

The Packers have the edge in this post-season series, 4-1. They would seem to have the edge on offence with top-rated passer Aaron Rodgers and a deep crew of receivers.

And the Niners would have the advantage on defence, having yielded 63 fewer points in the regular season.

A key will be whether Green Bay, which beat Minnesota 24-10 last week, can protect Rodgers after allowing 51 sacks. The 49ers’ Aldon Smith had 19 1-2 himself.

“We understand that it’s going to be up to us to keep Aaron clean, let him make some plays back there in the pocket,” left guard T.J Lang said. “That’s going to be a huge factor in how this game turns out.”

Seahawks (12-5) at Falcons (13-3)

Those road woes that plagued the Seahawks can be forgotten. They’ve won three in a row away from home, including the 24-14 wild-card victory at Washington that was their first on the road in the playoffs since 1983.

With six straight wins overall, they’re a confident bunch as they head to the Georgia Dome.

“We’ve grown and become more together and more in tune with our QB and what he can do and all that,” Carroll said, referring to rookie Russell Wilson. “We’re a pretty hard team to beat right now.”

Atlanta has been easy to beat in its last three playoff appearances, something quarterback Matt Ryan dismisses as a factor for this game.

“We’ve proven we can go out there and be successful. You have to buy into that. You have to believe in that. I feel more comfortable with the guys around me.”

Texans (13-4) at Patriots (12-4)

Yet another rematch, this from Dec. 10 when the Texans flopped in Foxborough, 42-10. That was the beginning of a fade in which they dropped three of four and sank from top AFC seed to No. 3.

Houston recovered somewhat last week in a 19-13 wild-card victory over Cincinnati. This is a much tougher task.

“If you want to move on, you’ve got to bring a sense of attitude and nastiness with you to go out and dominate your opponent on every play,” said QB Matt Schaub, who got his first post-season win last week.

Tom Brady has 16 post-season wins and needs one win to break a tie with Joe Montana.

“He’s won a lot of regular-season games, won a lot of playoff games,” coach Bill Belichick said. “What he does on a day-to-day basis, how he performs on the practice field, how he performs in games — whether they’re preseason, regular season, post-season, whatever it is — he’s pretty consistent. I think you see that during the week, so it shows up on Sunday.”

Just Posted

Red Deer city council aims to force larger non-profits to become more accountable

New bylaw defines which not-for-profits must pay for a business licence

Red Deer city council will seek public input on portable signage March 4

Council gave initial approval to retaining 100-metre separation distance

Smaller, more affordable, lots wanted in Red Deer’s Evergreen neighbourhood

Council approves first reading of requested lot-size changes

RDC’s new name to be unveiled in February

The next big milestone for Red Deer College is a new name,… Continue reading

Lacombe considering licensing cats

Council is expected to take a look at cat potential licensing regulations next month

2-for-1: Total lunar eclipse comes with supermoon bonus

On Sunday night, the moon, Earth and sun lined up to create the eclipse, which was visible throughout North and South America

Opinion: Faith in immigration must be preserved

Canada has a deserved reputation for extending its arms to newcomers, but… Continue reading

Olympian Adam van Koeverden wins federal Liberal nomination in Ontario riding

MILTON, Ont. — Former Olympic flag-bearer Adam van Koeverden will be carrying… Continue reading

World champion Osmond says it’s “really nice” not to know what future holds

SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Kaetlyn Osmond has a world title, Olympic medals… Continue reading

World economy forecast to slow in 2019 amid trade tensions

For Canada, the IMF’s estimate for growth in 2019 was 1.9 per cent, down from expected global growth of 3.5 per cent

Timberlake pops in on patients at Texas children’s hospital

DALLAS — Justin Timberlake has pulled some sunshine from his pocket for… Continue reading

UK police speak to Prince Philip about not wearing seatbelt

LONDON — British police have spoken with Prince Philip after the husband… Continue reading

‘Gotti’ leads Razzie nominations, Trump up for worst actor

The nominations were announced on Monday, Jan. 21 with some movies earning up to six nominations

Curtain rising Sunday night on total lunar eclipse

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The celestial curtain will be rising soon on… Continue reading

Most Read