This weekend’s football preview is brought to you by Casual Spectator, a super-simple sports newsletter for people who are too busy to always keep up with sports.
Another four NFL playoff games on tap this weekend, with two kicking off on Saturday and two on Sunday.
If we could only watch one game….
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET on FOX
The NFL couldn’t have asked for a better second-round matchup as two of the proudest franchises in the game do battle. The Packers are undefeated at home this season. The Cowboys have yet to lose a game on the road. Something’s gotta give.
What Vegas thinks
They see Green Bay winning by six points.
What we say
Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers’ calf muscle is the storyline surrounding this game. He will play, but ESPN reports that he has a slight tear in the muscle and will not be 100 percent. Rodgers’ ability to play through the pain will be key — he’s an MVP candidate who led the NFL’s highest-scoring offense at more than 30 points per game. Green Bay will need to put up points to win as this should be an offensive shootout. Dallas is led by QB Tony Romo, running back DeMarco Murray and receiver Dez Bryant, who helped the Cowboys to a top-five scoring average.
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
The Patriots went 12-4 in the regular season and are the top seed in the AFC. Their reward? They get to host the Baltimore Ravens, who, with their win last week, are now tied for the most road wins in NFL playoff history. The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, the Ravens walked out of New England with the AFC Championship en route to their 2012 Super Bowl. Things are a little different this time around, as the Patriots have tight end Rob Gronkowski healthy. Expect QB Tom Brady to throw Gronk’s way early and often. Vegas likes New England by seven. Saturday, 4:35 p.m. ET on NBC.
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks
Two of the NFL’s longest winning streaks go head to head in this one. With their 27-16 Wild Card win over Arizona last weekend, the Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) roll into Seattle having won five straight. The Seahawks (12-4) finished the season on a six-game win streak to grab the NFC’s top seed. Both teams feature great defenses, but Seattle’s is better and the Seahawks are widely expected to run away with this one. The bookmakers favor them by 11. Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET on FOX.
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
Denver (12-4) had a bye last week as the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Now they welcome the Indianapolis Colts (11-5), who cruised past the Cincinnati Bengals 26-10 last week. The quarterbacks will be at center stage for this one, with Peyton Manning taking on his Colts successor Andrew Luck. But the key player might actually be Denver running back C.J. Anderson. The Broncos went run-heavy late in the regular season and teams have had success rushing the ball against Indianapolis’ 18th-ranked run defense. The line says Denver by a touchdown. Sunday, 4:40 p.m. ET on CBS.
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