It’s round two of the playoffs. The field’s been narrowed. The winners? They’ve moved on. The losers? They’ve emptied out their lockers and their teams are getting ready for the draft.

The NFL’s answer to “Survivor” continues as eight teams fight their way to Glendale for the right to either hoist another Lombardi or get one of their very own (more about him later). It’s time for a team to step up their game to advance and if they advance, they have a chance to move on and for the loser, they are voted off the football island.

The flame gets put out.

For the losers, the tribe has spoken.

Four games with eight elite QBs under center this weekend and five of them with Super Bowl rings. Makes for some really great drama, ya think? As for last week, a rough Saturday turned into a pretty decent Sunday, which meant that we went 2-2 (157-91 for the year).




Next game’s in 2015.

It’s a formula so easy even the village idiot gets it.

“You’ve got to play your biggest at the biggest moments against the best teams in the toughest conditions,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told the Boston Globe. “You’ve got to see what you’re made of. That’s what this tournament is all about.”

FIRST-ROUND BYES: The top seeds – New England (12-4, AFC No. 1 seed), Seattle (12-4, NFC No. 1 seed), DENVER (12-4, AFC No. 2 seed) and Green Bay (12-4, NFC No. 2 seed) – earned first-round byes and will be featured in this weekend’s Divisional Playoffs.

Two of the four top seeds rank among the teams with the most first-round byes since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990. New England (10) has the most, while Denver (seven) has the fourth-most since 1990.

The teams with the most first-round byes since 1990:

New England Patriots – 10*
Pittsburgh Steelers – 8
San Francisco 49ers – 8
Denver Broncos – 7*
Dallas Cowboys – 5
*Includes 2014

CHAMPIONSHIP GOAL: This weekend, Dallas (13-4, NFC No. 3 seed) will travel to take on Green Bay (12-4, NFC No. 2 seed).

With a victory against Green Bay, Dallas would advance to its 15th NFC Championship Game, which would tie PITTSBURGH (15) and San Francisco (15) for the most appearances in a Conference Championship Game since 1970.

New England is fourth on the all-time list and can move into a tie for third with a win against Baltimore on Saturday. This would be New England’s fourth consecutive appearance in the AFC Championship Game.

The teams with the most appearances in a Conference Championship Game since 1970:

Pittsburgh Steelers – 15
San Francisco 49ers – 15
Dallas Cowboys – 14*
Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders – 11
New England Patriots – 10**
*At Green Bay on Sunday
**Hosts Baltimore on Saturday

STRENGTH VS. STRENGTH: This weekend, Dallas (13-4, NFC No. 3 seed) travels to take on Green Bay (12-4, NFC No. 2 seed). The matchup features the NFC East Champion Cowboys, who were 8-0 on the road this season and the NFC North Champion Packers, who were a perfect 8-0 at home in 2014.

The game is just the third NFL playoff game featuring an undefeated road team at an undefeated home team, and the first with an 8-0 home team hosting an 8-0 road team.

The playoff games with an undefeated road team at an undefeated home team:

December 19, 1948 – Philadelphia Eagles 6-0; Chicago Cardinals 6-0
December 31, 1972 – Pittsburgh Steelers 7-0; Miami Dolphins 7-0
January 11, 2015 – Green Bay Packers 8-0*: Dallas Cowboys 8-0*
*Play this Sunday

PASSING GREATS: New England quarterback Tom Brady has thrown 43 career postseason touchdown passes, the third most in NFL postseason history. He trails Brett Farve (44) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana (45) for the most in NFL history.

With three TD passes against Baltimore on Saturday, Brady would surpass Favre and Montana for the most postseason TD passes in NFL history.

The starting quarterbacks with the most postseason TD passes in NFL history:

Joe Montana, 1979-1994 – 45
Brett Favre, 1991-2010 – 44
Tom Brady, 2000-present – 43*
Peyton Manning, 1998-present – 37*
Dan Marino, 1983-1999 – 32

WINNING PARTICIPANTS: Dallas defeated Detroit 24-20 on Wild Card weekend to advance to the Divisional round. The win was the 34th postseason victory in Dallas’ history.

The Cowboys are now the winningest team in NFL postseason history, breaking a tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The teams with the most postseason wins in NFL history:

Dallas Cowboys: 34-25, .576 (5)
Pittsburgh Steelers: 33-22, .600 (6)
Green Bay Packers: 30-19, .612 (4)
San Francisco 49ers: 30-20, .600 (5)
New England Patriots: 25-18, .581 (3)
Oakland Raiders: 25-18, .581 (3)

FAST FLACCO: Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco made his 14th career postseason start on Saturday when the Ravens topped the Steelers, 30-17. Flacco has started 14 playoff games for Baltimore since being drafted in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

With Saturday’s start, Flacco moved into a tie with New England quarterback Tom Brady for the most postseason starts by a quarterback in his first seven seasons.

The most postseason starts by a quarterback in his first seven seasons:
Joe Flacco, Baltimore-14*
Tom Brady, New England-14
Brett Favre. Green Bay-13
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh-13
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia-12
*Active streak

HISTORIC HILTON: Indianapolis wide receiver T.Y. Hilton had six catches for 103 yards in Indianapolis’ 26-10 win over Cincinnati on Sunday. Hilton now ranks second in NFL postseason history with 496 receiving yards in his first four playoff games.

The players with the most receiving yards in their first four career postseason games:

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona – 546
T.Y. Hilton – Indianapolis – 496
Tom Fears – Los Angeles Rams – 495
Anthony Carter, Minnesota – 493
Randy Moss, Minnesota – 463

POSTSEASON PASSING YARDS:  Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford passed for 323 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s Wild Card matchup with Dallas. In two career postseason starts, Stafford has passed for 703 yards.

Stafford is the second quarterback to throw for at least 700 yards through his first two postseason games.
The players with the most passing yards in their first two postseason games:

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis – 731
Matthew Stafford, Detroit – 703
Kurt Warner, St. Louis – 649
Dan Fouts, San Diego – 647
Richard Todd, New York Jets – 646
Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle – 646

COOL JOE: Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco made his NFL-record tying 14th career postseason start in his first seven seasons – tying an NFL record – in a 30-17 win against Pittsburgh on Wild Card Weekend. Flacco completed 18 of 29 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 114.0 passer rating against the Steelers. Flacco has not thrown an interception in 166 consecutive attempts, the fourth-longest streak in NFL playoff history.

With 14 consecutive pass attempts without an interception on Saturday against New England, Flacco would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famers Steve Young (173 attempts; 1994-96) and Joe Montana (179 attempts; 1989-91) for the second-longest such streak in NFL playoff history.

The players with the most consecutive pass attempts without an interception in NFL playoff history:

Drew Brees – New Orleans, 2007-2012 (226)
Joe Montana – San Francisco, 1989-1991 (179)
Steve Young – San Francisco, 1994-1996 (173)
Joe Flacco – Baltimore, 2012-present (166)

AWESOME ANDREW: Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck threw for 376 yards in a 26-10 victory over Cincinnati on Wild Card Weekend. Luck has now thrown for at least 300 yards in three consecutive playoff games, tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history.

With 300 passing yards on Sunday at Denver, Luck would tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Fouts (four) for the most consecutive 300-yard playoff games in NFL history.

The players with the most consecutive 300-yard passing games in NFL playoff history:
Dan Fouts – San Diego, 1979-1981 (4)**
Andrew Luck – Indianapolis, 2013-2014 (3)*
Drew Brees – New Orleans, 2010-2011 (3)
Jim Kelly – Buffalo, 1989-1990 (3)**
Warren Moon – Houston, 1991-1993 (3)**
*Current streak
**Pro Football Hall of Famer

HEAD OF THE CLASS: New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has compiled a 19-9 (.679) record in his postseason career. Belichick is tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Shula for the second-most playoff wins in NFL history.

With a win against Baltimore on Saturday, Belichick would tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Tom Landry (20) for first place on the all-time postseason wins list.

The head coaches with the most playoff wins in NFL history:
Tom Landry – Dallas Cowboys: 20
Bill Belichick – Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots: 19*
Don Shula – Baltimore Colts, Miami Dolphins: 19
Joe Gibbs – Washington Redskins: 17
Chuck Noll – Pittsburgh Steelers: 16

VIEW FROM THE TOP: Since the NFL moved to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, No. 1 seeds in the NFC are 20-4 (.833) in the Divisional Playoffs. In the AFC, the No. 1 seed has compiled a 14-10 (.583) record.

Both No. 1 seeds are in action this weekend when the top-seeded Seattle Seahawks host the Carolina Panthers in the NFC and the No. 1-seed New England Patriots face the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC.

The No. 1 seeds in Divisional-round play since 1990:
1990 – Buffalo: Defeated Miami 44-34; San Francisco: Defeated Washington 28-10
1991 – Buffalo: Defeated Kansas City 37-14; Washington: Defeated Atlanta 24-7
1992 – Pittsburgh: Lost to Buffalo 24-3; San Francisco: Defeated Washington 20-13
1993 – Buffalo: Defeated Los Angeles Raiders 29-23; Dallas: Defeated Green Bay 27-17
1994 – Pittsburgh: Defeated Cleveland 29-9; San Francisco: Defeated Chicago 44-15
1995 – Kansas City: Lost to Indianapolis 10-7; Dallas: Defeated Philadelphia 30-11
1996 – Denver: Lost to Jacksonville 30-27; Green Bay: Defeated San Francisco 35-14
1997 – Kansas City: Lost to Denver 14-10; San Francisco: Defeated Minnesota 38-22
1998 – Denver: Defeated Miami 38-3; Minnesota: Defeated Arizona 41-21
1999 – Jacksonville: Defeated Miami 62-7; St. Louis – Defeated Minnesota 49-37
2000 – Tennessee: Lost to Baltimore 24-10; New York Giants: Defeated Philadelphia 20-10
2001 – Pittsburgh: Defeated Baltimore 27-10; St. Louis: Defeated Green Bay 45-17
2002 – Oakland: Defeated New York Jets 30-10; Philadelphia: Defeated Atlanta 20-6
2003 – New England: Defeated Tennessee 17-14; Philadelphia: Defeated Green Bay 20-17 (OT)
2004 – Pittsburgh: Defeated New York Jets 20-17 (OT); Philadelphia: Defeated Minnesota 27-14
2005 – Indianapolis: Lost to Pittsburgh 21-18; Seattle: Defeated Washington 20-10
2006 – San Diego: Lost to New England 24-21; Chicago: Defeated Seattle 27-24 (OT)
2007 – New England: Defeated Jacksonville 31-20; Dallas: Lost to New York Giants 21-17
2008 – Tennessee: Lost to Baltimore 13-10; New York Giants: Lost to Philadelphia 23-11
2009 – Indianapolis: Defeated Baltimore 20-3; New Orleans: Defeated Arizona 45-14
2010 – New England: Lost to New York Jets 28-21; Atlanta: Lost to Green Bay 48-21
2011 – New England: Defeated Denver 45-10; Green Bay: Lost to New York Giants 37-20
2012 – Denver: Lost to Baltimore 38-35 (2OT); Atlanta: Defeated Seattle 30-28
2013 – Denver: Defeated San Diego 24-17; Seattle: Defeated New Orleans 23-15
2014 – New England: ???; Seattle: ???

And then there were eight.

This weekend, there are a pair of regular season rematches (Indianapolis at Denver: Week one; Carolina at Seattle: week eight). Denver won the week one contest in the Mile High City, while the defending Super Bowl champions rallied to take a four-point win in the Tar Heel State.

The winners advance.

The losers go home.

Here are the games for the second round of the NFL playoffs.

Baltimore (10-6) at New England (12-4), 4:35 p.m. Saturday on NBC. They meet again and for the Pats, they have a score to settle with the Ravens. For Baltimore, it’s a chance to move on. Brady meets Flacco in the second round of the AFC postseason. For Brady, it’s revenge; for Flacco, it’s a chance to extend his post-season streak of seven games on enemy ground.

Baltimore led Pittsburgh 10-9 at halftime at Heinz Field in the first round of the AFC playoffs and then outscored the Steelers 20-8 in the final 30 minutes of play to win 30-17 to advance to Foxboro. Although they were held to 49 yards rushing (Pittsburgh, even without RB Le’Veon Bell, had 68 yards), the Ravens managed to sack Ben Roethlisberger (334 yards, TD) five times and pick him off twice, while Ravens QB Joe Flacco threw for 259 yards and a pair of TDs in the win in the Keystone State. Baltimore was 4-11 on third down tries and kept the ball for 24:43 (they were 1-1 on fourth down), while the Steelers were 5-16 and 2-3 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 35:17. Head coach John Harbaugh’s seven postseason road wins (7-4) are tied for the most ever by a head coach with Tom Coughlin (7-4) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Tom Landry (7-7).

“You have to play these games to win,” says Flacco, who with his fifth consecutive postseason game with a 100+ passer rating tied Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman for the second-longest streak in NFL history. “We’re fighting for the big prize. You have to go out there and you let everything go. You can’t worry about the outcome.”

Top-seeded New England enjoyed their bye week after their 17-9 loss to Buffalo in Foxboro to close out the 2014 regular season. The Pats were held to three Stephen Gostkowski field goals and trailed 17-6 at halftime and struggled throughout the contest, even though they out-rushed the Bills 116-108 in the loss. New England on third and fourth down conversions went 5-15 and 1-3 on third and fourth down conversions, keeping the ball for 30:57, while the Bills were 5-11 on third down and kept the pigskin for 29:03. “In the playoffs, it’s the same for everybody – one loss and you go home,” says Brady. “You try to play to your strengths and get ready to go so you can be at your best when you really need it the most. There’s only one team out of 32 that gets to win it each year. Hopefully you’re the one that gets the chance to do it. We’ve got a great football team here, so we’ll see. We’ve got to go out there and earn it.”

Although the Pats lead Baltimore in regular season play 7-1, the Ravens lead New England in the post-season 2-1, with Baltimore’s last win coming in Foxboro in 2012 28-13 in the AFC Championship game (New England’s only win in the postseason against Baltimore came in 2011, also in Foxoboro by a final of 23-20). New England’s favored by 7 and the over/under is 48. A lot is at stake here. The Pats, the top seed in the AFC, wants to win and play in Foxboro next week, while the Ravens would like to add to Brady’s misery. The Ravens will go back to Charm City but they’ll have a loss under their wings. Brady and the Pats march on at home south of Beantown and wins at home, covering the 7.

Carolina (7-8-1) at Seattle (12-4), 8:15 p.m. Saturday on FOX. The Cam Newton show heads westward to the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks for a Saturday night encounter with the defending Super Bowl champs at Century Link Field.

Carolina took Arizona to task in the first round of the NFC playoffs last Saturday afternoon in Charlotte, taking a 27-16 over the Desert Angry Birds in the Tar Heel State. Carolina trailed 14-13 at halftime before the Panthers outscored Arizona in the second half 14-2, giving up only a late safety in the contest. “Guys have come together and bought into what we are doing,” says Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, who had a game-high 10 tackles and an interception in the Wild Card victory. “We took the first step and it’s an absolutely awesome feeling.”

Carolina held Arizona to 27 yards rushing, while rushing for 188 (RB Jonathan Stewart led all rushers with 123 yards and a TD) and the Panther defense held QB Ryan Lindley to 82 yards passing, sacking him four times and picking him off twice, while Newton threw for a pair of TDs and 198 yards in the win. Carolina on third and fourth down went 5-15 and 0-2, while holding the ball for 37:06 in the win at Bank of America Stadium. Arizona on third down was 3-12 (they did not have a fourth down try) and held the ball for 22:54.

The defending Super Bowl champs and top seed gained some major revenge two weeks ago against St. Louis in Seattle, taking a 20-6 win over the Rams, holding their guests to a pair of first-half field goals and scoring their 20 points in the second half unchallenged, including TDs from RB Marshawn Lynch (9 yard run) and LB Bruce Irvin (49 yard interception return) for the win to give the Seahawks the NFC West title. Seattle, while rushing for 142 yards in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks, held St. Louis to 42 and forced three turnovers in the win at CenturyLink Field. Seattle on third and fourth downs went 7-15 and 0-1, holding the ball for 31:11, while the Rams kept the ball for 28:49 and went 3-12 and 0-1 on third and fourth down tries. “We’re exactly where we want to be,” Wilson told KING-TV. Wilson, who is 40-13 (.755) as a starter (including the playoffs), including a 24-2 (.923) mark at home. “To be going into the playoffs, have a first-round bye and be the No. 1 team in the NFC, that’s what you want. Most importantly, we get to play at home again and in front of the best fans in the world. We’re high on confidence, like always. But we have to play great football, one game at a time.”

They’ve met only once in post-season play and Seattle won that meeting in 2005 by a final of 34-14 in the NFC Championship, which allowed the Seahawks to take on Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL (Seattle would lose to the Steelers in that contest in Detroit 21-10). Both teams met in the 2014 campaign in week eight in Charlotte and Seattle came away with a 13-9 win over the Panthers. The Seahawks erased a 6-3 defecit at the half by outscoring Carlina 7-6 in the final 30 minutes of action, taking the lead for keep when TE Luke Wilson and QB Russell Wilson connected on a 23-yard TD pass with 47 seconds left to play. The defending Super Bowl champs outrushed Carolina 119-114 and sack Newton three times in the contest, forcing a pair of turnovers in the win. Seattle was 4-11 on third down tries in the Tar Heel State, keeping the ball for 29 minutes, while the Panthers were 2-10 and 1-2 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 31 minutes. In the week eight affair in Charlotte, although the Seahawks won the contest, they did not cover the 5 1/2 spread, winning by only four and neither team managed to breach the 44 1/2 over/under, scoring only 22 points. This time, Seattle’s favored by 11 and the over/under is 40. The 40 sounds reasonable. The 11 has us scratching our heads. Carolina’s a lot better than some people think but there is the noise factor and the 12th man. Seahawks advance but won’t cover the 11.

Dallas (11-5) at Green Bay (12-4), 1:05 p.m. Sunday on FOX. Romo vs. Rodgers. A pair of old NFL rivals meet on the almost-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in an early Sunday afternoon affair. (Dress warmly, it’s gonna be somewhat chily)

“To be among the final eight teams, it’s something we certainly feel good about,” says Dallas head coach Jason Garrett. “Challenges are ahead and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

“It’s great to be playing at home, we prefer to play here,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “This is playoff football and everything changes. But this is definitely where we want to play.”

“This is a fun team to be on and the guys believe in each other, fight for each other and we stick together,” says Rodgers, who ranks second in NFL postseason history with a 103.1 passer rating. “Winning the division was important as was getting that home playoff game. We’re 8-0 at home so we want to keep that streak alive. This is what we love to do. I love the competition. We’re all passionate about this game.”

Dallas rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit in Arlington against Detroit last Sunday, coming away with a 24-20 win. Although they were out-rushed by the Lions 90-73 and Romo was sacked six times, Romo did manage to throw a pair of TD passes, including the game-winner to wR Terrance Williams with 2:32 left to play. Then Dallas survived major drama when LB Cameron Lawrence picked up a Detroit fumble and his team almost had the contest won, when he fumbled, which gave the ball back to the Lions. The football gods would eventually smile on Lawrence and the Cowboys, as he picked up another fumble and held on to the ball to seal Detroit’s fate. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford would out-pace Romo in passing yardage 323-293 (Stafford was sacked three times and picked off once, throwing a TD pass to WR Golden Tate) and in the battle of the WRs, Megatron (aka Calvin Johnson) easily out-paced his Dallas counterpart Dez Bryant 85-48. Dallas on third and fourth down conversions went 6-14 and 2-2, keeping the ball for 30:27, while Detroit on third and fourth down tries was 4-11 and 0-1, holding the ball for 29:33

Green Bay won the “winner-take-all” NFC North title match against Detroit at Lambeau 30-20. Leading 14-7 at half, Green Bay out-scored Detroit 16-13 in the second half of the contest, which had its fair share of drama. First, QB Aaron Rodgers left the contest with a calf injury and later returned, throwing a 13-yard pass to Randall Cobb and rushing for a TD (Rodgers and Cobb connected for a pair of TDs). Then controversy reared its ugly head when Lions DE Ndamukong Suh stepped on Rodgers not once but twice, drawing the wrath and ire of Packer fans at the chilly Wisconsin air (game time temp? 27 with a 21 wind chill). Suh was at first suspended by the NFL and would have missed the Wild Card game with Dallas had not the powers that be intervined. Suh appealed the suspension and was fined $70,000 for his actions. Green Bay outrushed Detroit 152-111 and Rodgers threw for 226 yards in the contest for the win, out-pacing Matthew Stafford, who threw for 217 yards and three TDs (Stafford was sacked twice). Green Bay was 8-13 and 0-1 on third and fourth down tries and held the ball for 34:18, while the Lions on third and fourth down were 4-11 and 1-3, holding on to the pigskin for 25:42.

As far as post-season goes, the Cowboys hold a 4-2 lead and Dallas’ last win came in 1995 in the NFC Championship game at old Cowboys Stadium by a final of 38-27 (Farve vs. Aikman). Green Bay’s last post-season win over Dallas? Ice Bowl 1967 at Lambeau in the NFC championship game by a 21-17 final. (Some of you weren’t born when Ice Bowl took place but we can tell you it wasn’t Palm Springs in Green Bay that afternoon.) That was the classic game where Bart Starr scored from 1-yard out with 13 seconds left in chilly (how cold? a balmy -13 and it got COLDER as the game went along that day) upstate Wisconsin. In that contest, the Packers mounted a 12-play, 68-yard drive and on third down from the Cowboys’ 1, Green Bay, with no timeouts
left, the Packers avoided the tying field goal and went for the winning touchdown, which Starr delivered by following the block of guard Jerry Kramer. Green Bay’s favored by 6 and the over/under is 53. Both numbers make sense. Dallas had to come from behind to win last week amid controversy, while the Packers rested and prepared. This could be closer than the 6. Could it come to overtime? Who knows. As ESPN’s Chris Berman says, “That’s why they play the games.” Dallas puts up a fight but Packers win at home at Lambeau and could cover the 6.

Indianapolis (11-5) at Denver (12-4), 4:40 p.m. Sunday on CBS. Andrew Luck vs. Peyton Manning. They meet again in the Mile High City and this time, it’s for nearly all the marbles. For the winner, it’s a chance to move on. For the loser, the season’s over. Done. Kaput. Enough said.

“We played great team football and we’re moving on to the next round,” says Luck. “We’ve got a tall order playing Denver at Denver but we’re excited about that and up for the challenge.”

Manning won nine playoff games – including Super Bowl XLI – with the Colts. He has 6,589 passing yards and nine 300-yard games in his postseason career, both tops in NFL history.

“We’re excited and looking forward to the postseason,” says Manning. “This is always an exciting time for football. This is why you work so hard all season to get this opportunity. Playoff football takes on different twists and turns. You’re going to play some really good football teams.”

“We’re excited and glad to be playing at home,” Manning told KUSA-TV and the Rocky Mountain News. “We know our crowd will be into it and be a big factor.”

Luck in their first round 26-10 win over Cincinnati last Sunday at Lucas Oil threw for 376 yards and a TD pass to WR Donte Moncrief in the contest, while the Colts defense sacked Andy Dalton three times. Indy outrushed the Bengals 114-110 in the contest and led 13-10 at halftime before shutting Cincinnati out in the final 30 minutes of play 10-0 for the win. The Colts on third down tries went 6-14, while the Bengals were 6-15 and the clock was the ally of the Colts, who held the ball for 34:10, while the Bengals had it for 25:50.

Denver took the second seed in the AFC after they took the Raiders to the woodshed two Sundays ago in the Mile High City as the Peytonicus and the Broncos flat-lined Oakland 47-14. Denver led at the half 20-7 and outscored the Silver and Black 27-7 in the final 30 minutes of play. Manning threw for 273 yards in the contest and played interception-free football in the lopsided win at home, while the Denver defense forced a pair of Raider turnovers to take the win and sweep the series in the process. Denver on third and fourth down tries went 7-15 and 1-1, holding the ball for 33:01, while the Raiders went 5-15 and 0-1 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for 26:59.

Indy and Denver have met twice in the post-season and the Colts have won both contests when Manning was a Colt (their last win in the postseason came in 2004 by a final of 49-24). They also met in week one in Denver and the Broncos held off the Colts 31-24, holding off a late Indy rally. Denver led 24-7 at halftime before the Colts outscored the Broncos in the second half 17-7. Denver held the Colts to 52 yards on the ground, while rushing for 102 and Manning threw three TD passes and 269 yards, while Luck threw a pair of TDs and 370 yards with three sacks and two interceptions. Denver was 50 percent on third down tries at 7-14 and kept the ball for 32:24, while the Colts were 4-13 and 2-4 on third and fourth down tries and held the ball for 27:36. Denver in the week one contest was favored by 7 1/2 and the Broncos won by 7, barely missing the spread and both teams matched the 55 over/under. This time around, Denver’s favored by 7 and the over/under’s 54. Manning vs. Luck, round two and this time, for all the marbles, which means that this one is “Drill Worthy.” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?)

After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question on Sunday) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 55 and dates a 40-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?” Stock up now. The winner gets a date either at home against Baltimore or goes to Foxboro to face Brady in the AFC Championship Game next week. It’s winner take all. Loser gets lovely parting gifts, as they say on the old game shows. Indy makes it close but Denver and the Peytonicus takes the win at home in the Mile High City and covers the 7.