No. 6 Baltimore Ravens @ No. 1 New England
No matter what team they have to work with, Brady and Belichick have continued to find success. However, Brady has had his postseason struggles with the Ravens over the years, going 1-2 against them at Foxborough since 2009. With an inconsistent run game, it’ll be up to the NFL’s all-time winningest playoff quarterback to dissect a shaky Ravens’ secondary. It’s not likely Baltimore goes on another Cinderella run to the Superbowl.
Prediction: Patriots 24-13 Ravens
No. 4 Indianapolis Colts @ No. 2 Denver Broncos
This could be a tough one for Colts fans to swallow if they lose to the man they worshipped for 13 full seasons. Manning and the Broncos have slowed down their attack thanks to the emergence of runningback CJ Anderson. If the Colts can stop the run, they are more than capable of matching the struggling Broncos’ passing game. For Luck, defeating the man he replaced would be a good start to getting out of Manning’s 69,000-yard shadow.
Prediction: Broncos 27-21 Colts
No. 4 Carolina Panthers @ No. 1 Seattle Seahawks
In a weekend of mostly tasty matchups, this one takes the cake as the most lopsided. The Panthers defeated the Arizona Cardinals last weekend 27-16 after being just the second team in NFL history to make the playoffs in a nonstrike season with a losing record. The Panthers offense is too inconsistent in every important category to overcome the league’s No. 1 ranked defense. Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks’ top-ranked rushing offense should take the defending champs to their second-straight NFC Championship game.
Prediction: Seahawks 24-13 Panthers
No. 3 Dallas Cowboys @ No. 2 Green Bay
Tony Romo picked up his second career playoff win against the Detroit Lions last Sunday, setting up the first time that the Cowboys and Packers have played in the postseason since the Ice Bowl in 1967. Aaron Rodgers is the biggest question mark entering the game, but says he’s ready to go for this one. Both teams are formidable when it comes to the passing or running game, making this is a likely candidate for highest scoring game of the weekend. America’s team may have the edge if Rodgers is unable to fully perform.
Prediction: Packers 35-24 Cowboys
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of January 8, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.