Daily Blog •January 12, 2013
4:30 pm ET • CBS
@philsteele042 • #AFCDivisional
Projected Box Score

DEN came into BAL and pummeled them 34-17 just a few wks ago. BAL didn't earn its initial FD until there was 8:00 left in the 1H. BAL was outgained 300-146 when DEN went up 31-3 midway thru the 3Q. DEN holds a 7-1 at home TY where their +158 ypg edge is the best in the NFL (+0 TO's) for a 33-16 avg score. BAL went 4-4 on the road TY being outgained by 37 ypg (+5 TO's) w/an avg scoring deficit of 21-18. The common NDIV foes here are HOU/NE with BAL going 1-1 and DEN going 0-2 but that was before Manning was fully settled in. It must be noted that Manning has avg'd 298 ypg (68%) w/a 22-3 ratio at home TY while Flacco has avg'd 203 ypg (57%) w/a 7-5 ratio on the road.

2012 was supposed to be the yr that Flacco, in a contract yr, broke out but the off had become quite predictable and Rice wasn't being utilized to his fullest (2 100 yd gms vs 6 LY). Flacco has a solid 15-5 ratio (8.3 ypa) at home but just 7-5 ratio (5.9 ypa) on the road. Rice does have a solid amount of rec's but that's coming off checkdowns. Boldin remains a solid #2 type w/Smith being a dangerous deep threat. BAL likes to use the 2 TE sets but they are much more conservative than NE's in scheme. The OL is above avg (#20 sks, 4.7 ypc) which is a disappointment w/the talent. 2002 was the last time BAL wasn't in the top 10 for D for ydg but they remain top 10 in ypp. Inj's have hit every level here but they should have 9 of 11 opening day st'rs (CB Webb/LB McClain) here. The fact they have only given up a 14-13 ratio shows their quality of depth. BAL has my #1 ST's unit thanks to Jones work comb w/a great yr by Koch.

Despite missing a year it can be argued that '12 was Manning's best ever. Working w/a new roster/coaches/hybrid scheme, his +26 ratio was 2nd only to 2004 which he bested in att, comp, comp % and yards. With Manning at the helm, Decker and Thomas became the 1st tandem of 1,000 yd rec's s/'04. Stokely has been a reliable 3rd Dn option while Dreesen and Tamme have excelled working in similar styles at IND/HOU. Over the final 6 games which Moreno started DEN has the #11 rush off and as a team they outgained foes by 150 ypg (+2 TO's) which is an NFL best. Including the '07 Colts, this is the best/deepest D Manning has had. While labeled an OLB, Miller rushes on over 70% of his snaps and is one of the best all around LB's in the league. Many of DEN's 52 sks (#1) are the result of their top 5 secondary which has allowed 203 ypg (54%) w/an 11-8 ratio over the L8 games once they settled into Del Rio's system. They are the only defense to not give up a 300 yd passing game TY (PIT/NYJ 1) with only 3 games over 100 yds rushing. DEN also has my #5 spec teams unit w/top 10 coverage units and Colquitt's net avg is the 3rd best TY.

Manning is now 8-0 vs the Ravens avg 243 ypg (64%) w/a 16-5 ratio. BAL beat the weakest of the playoff teams at home LW w/a big emotional lift w/the return of Ray Lewis. Still, they gave up 25 FD's and 419 yds to a rookie dome QB in his 1st playoff game. BAL is healthier than the 1st meeting but off an emotion packed game and now on the road with altitude a letdown is in order. How many nights has an inj'd Manning thought about this moment?

PHIL’S FORECAST: denver 27 baltimore 13
8:00 pm ET • FOX
@philsteele042 • #NFCDivisional
Projected Box Score

The 49ers pulled an opening week upset beating GB 30-22 at Lambeau. SF quickly shut down GB's attempt at a run game (45 yds, 3.2) and by forcing them to be one-dimensional they were able to bottle up the passing game. 107 of Rodgers 303 yds came midway thru the 4Q after GB was down 30-15. Six of GB's 1st 7 drives ended in punts. SF went 6-1-1 at home TY with a +105 ypg (#2) and +4 TO's mark for a 25-14 avg score. GB went 4-4 on the road for +15 ypg (+3 TO's) but a 25-24.5 avg score. Rodgers has logged 281 ypg (67%) w/a 22-3 ratio on the road TY however.

After a slow start Rodgers has dominated the passing game again finishing w/less than 10 int in 3 of the L4Y (11 in 2010). The only bad thing that can be said about the Packers off is that the run game is once again very limited. Part is due to Rodgers (8 100+ QBR's TY), part is due to design (often just an extra pass blk'r) and part is due to injury (Benson IR foot). Even though GB lacks a 1,000 yd receiver TY this is still a top 3 unit in depth/talent. GB's biggest weakness on offense is the OL which has had 4 diff OL combo's the final 7 gms. Despite being one of the most beat up def's GB's #11 rank is a sign of depth and the fact they've only played 1 team w/a top 10 off in the L10 gms (DET). Raji is the cornerstone of the DL, Matthews for LB's but GB is also quite deep in the secondary. The fact they allow 4.5 ypc is due to 2 strong gms by Peterson and inj's up front. They are better than their #11 pass def rankings (#4 def QBR) as they allow just 55% comp w/a 6.7 ypa (7th). GB has my #16 spec tms unit thanks to Randall Cobb on returns.

Prior to Kaepernick, SF avg'd 366 ypg/215 ypg pass/23.7 ppg. Since he took over it's 356 ypg/230 ypg pass/26.3 ppg but he is much more aggressive with the ball as SF uses more of the Pistol off. Gore has quietly logged his 2nd str year of 1,200 yds rush thanks to the best OL in the NFL TY giving up 1 sk every 16 pass att's w/Kaepernick vs 1 every 8.4 w/Smith. Crabtree has finally taken to being a #1 WR here and is the 1st WR w/1,000 yds rec s/'03 while Davis has admitted he's not as comfortable w/a new QB at the helm. Losing Manningham (knee) creates an unknown as it's a ? to how much gas Moss has left. SF's OL is one of 3 to start every game together TY (MIN/NYJ). SF's D ret'd all 11 st'rs from LY's #4 unit and they didn't miss a start until Justin Smith tore a tricep. He is the key cog in the system setting up the majority of Aldon Smith's 19.5 sks to a stop unit that all'd 91 ypg (3.6) rush w/him in the lineup. The 49ers also have the best LB unit in the NFL w/Aldon, Willis and Bowman locked up longterm. They own the #5 pass D and their 6.1 ypa is 2nd best. SF has my #10 ST's TY despite Akers struggles.

While SF did catch GB by surprise in the 1st matchup the Packers were focused on installing a run game all preseason (and most of Sept) to the detriment of the offense. This time around GB is healthier (DE Justin Smith, Manningham IR), knows what they are in for and have a big experience edge with Rodgers over Kaepernick. SF is a very formidable foe esp w/its OL but GB's playoff exp particularly at the QB pos gives them the final edge here.