Here come the big boys.
The NFL’s wild-card weekend is over, with nary an upset. Moving on are division winners Green Bay, Houston and Baltimore, along with NFC West runner-up Seattle and the only rookie quarterback still standing: Russell Wilson.
Ahead are some daunting challenges as the Ravens visit Denver, the Texans go to New England, the Packers head to San Francisco and the Seahawks journey to Atlanta.
Only the Seahawks-Falcons isn’t a rematch.
Seattle isn’t intimidated one bit about facing the NFC’s top seed.
“Despite the fact that we have a `nobody’ team,” Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said after Sunday’s convincing 24-14 comeback win at Washington, “a team not full of first-rounders and things like that, we have a lot of guys that play at a high level.”
Of course, so do the Falcons (13-3), Broncos (13-3), Patriots (12-4) and 49ers (11-4-1).
“They have a great coach and a great quarterback and they have great role players on their team,” Texans running back Arian Foster said of the Patriots, who routed Houston 42-14 last month. “I have a lot of respect for them, but we can play ball, too.”
The Texans beat Cincinnati 19-13 on Saturday, then Green Bay took out Minnesota 24-10. In Sunday’s other game, Baltimore eliminated Indianapolis 24-9.
The playoffs continue next Saturday with Baltimore (11-6) at Denver, followed by Green Bay (12-5) at San Francisco. The Broncos beat the Ravens 34-17 three weeks ago, while the 49ers knocked off the Packers 30-22 in the season opener.
On Sunday, it’s Seattle (12-5) at Atlanta, followed by Houston (13-4) visiting New England.
Ravens at Broncos
Not only is Baltimore thrilled to keep playing and keep star linebacker Ray Lewis’ career going, but the Ravens got the opponent they sought for the divisional round.
“I wanted Denver,” said Anquan Boldin, who set a franchise record with 145 yards receiving, including the clinching touchdown against Indianapolis (11-6). “Because they beat us. We’ll make it different.”