Here come the big boys
UNDATED (AP) - The records are gaudy. The star power is high.
Denver, Atlanta, New England and San Francisco host divisional playoff games this weekend. They're a combined 49-14-1, and their rosters are filled with such headline grabbers as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Tony Gonzalez and Patrick Willis.
Their home-field advantages could be formidable, too. The Broncos, who have won 11 straight games, and Falcons each went 7-1; the 49ers were 6-1-1 and the Patriots 6-2.
None of which makes the Ravens, Seahawks, Texans or Packers quake in their cleats.
Baltimore at Denver opens the weekend's action, followed by Green Bay at San Francisco on Saturday night.
Sunday, Seattle is at Atlanta, then Houston goes to New England.
MANNING'S TWIN TARGETS
Decker, Thomas flourish under Manning
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - They were frustrated a year ago when Tim Tebow didn't target them very often - and often missed his targets when he did.
Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas have flourished with Peyton Manning under center, combining for 179 catches, 2,498 yards and 23 touchdowns this season.
They're two of the biggest reasons the Broncos (13-3) haven't lost in three months and will take an 11-game winning streak into their AFC divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens (11-6) on Saturday.
Having Manning around can do wonders for young receivers, but only if they work hard and stay healthy, the two ingredients that allowed this pair of third-year pros to put aside a history of injuries and have bust-out seasons.
Ravens' Rice feels fresh, ready to run vs Denver
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) - Ray Rice had a combined 318 carries and catches during the regular season, the lowest total since his rookie year in 2008.
Part of the reason is that the Baltimore Ravens relied heavily on quarterback Joe Flacco, who set a career high in yards passing. In addition, rookie Bernard Pierce logged 108 carries as Rice's backup.
Rice isn't complaining, because he's never felt better in the postseason and intends to shine Saturday in Denver.
Rice says, "I'm fresh in the playoffs. I'm healthy. This is the best I've ever felt."
He's also determined to make up for his uncharacteristic performance of a week ago, when he lost two fumbles in Baltimore's 24-9 win over Indianapolis.
Rice says, "I will continue to try to make plays, but I'll be smarter."