The San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos are well-rested entering Saturday's divisional playoff round, after earning bye weeks during the regular season. Meanwhile the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers are looking to carry momentum away from home, after posting convincing victories last week.
Ray Lewis may have taken to M&T Bank Field for the last time, but the Baltimore Ravens are still using their leader's looming retirement as motivation to do put together one last run. Winning their only Super Bowl ring back in 2000, it's an opportunity to add another ring to an already Hall of Fame career for a player who revolutionized playing inside linebacker in the NFL. This week the Ravens won't get to benefit from a rookie quarterback, and a young team learning to play in the postseason. Now they meet Peyton Manning and a Denver Broncos team who lost only three games during the regular season. It remains to be seen how many more seasons Manning has left in the tank, and he's hunting for his second ring as well.
Saturday night's contest may boast less emotion -- but it's of equal importance to both teams. Jim Harbaugh burst onto the NFL scene in 2011, and has already asserted himself as one of the premier coaches in the league. A cutthroat attitude and a defensive-minded game plan has led San Francisco to an 11-4-1 record during the regular season. The sides last met back in week one, a game where the 49ers beat the Packers by a score of 30-22. Now Green Bay has to create a new game plan in order to deal with sophomore quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Making a switch at QB has added diversity to an already dangerous San Francisco offense. His ability to move the ball through the air and on the ground make him difficult to scheme for -- and that's a large reason why the 49ers finished 5-2 with Kaepernick as a starter.
Meanwhile, it will be important for Aldon Smith to help disrupt Aaron Rodgers -- a task easier said than done. In that week one loss, Rodgers threw for over 300 yards, and it was largely due to his ability to avoid the pass rush. The key to beating the Packers is to quickly get down field, and stop him from being able to make the small pocket adjustments in order to find an open receiver.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High -- Denver, CO
When: 4:30 p.m. ET
Green Bay Packers vs. San Francisco 49ers
Where: Candlestick Park -- San Francisco, CA
When: 8:00 p.m. ET