Top seeds enter Super Bowl chase

Jan. 11, 2013 at 9:11 PM
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DENVER, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Denver, San Francisco, Atlanta and New England enter the Super Bowl chase this weekend in games that will whittle the championship field to the final four.

The winner of each of the games Saturday and Sunday will move to within one victory of a Super Bowl appearance, something one of the clubs remaining has never achieved.

Three of the four games on the schedule will be rematches of contests played during the regular season, and the teams that will host the playoff contests won all three.

The action begins Saturday with Baltimore traveling to Denver, where forecasters have called for a 20 percent chance of snow at kickoff with a high temperature of 18 degrees.

Denver's Peyton Manning, in his first year with the Broncos, is trying to become the first quarterback in NFL history to lead two different franchises to a Super Bowl title. He won the NFL crown with Indianapolis 6 years ago.

The Broncos defeated Baltimore 34-17 late in the regular season. Baltimore was without the services of linebacker Ray Lewis in that game, but he will be back to add his emotional presence to the playoff contest. Lewis has said he will retire at the end of this, his 17th season in the NFL.

San Francisco will be at home against Green Bay in Saturday's second contest -- a game that will feature the quarterback with the best passing rating in the league.

Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers had a rating of 108 thanks to his 39 touchdown throws and a completion percentage of 67.2.

The 49ers downed the Packers 30-22 on the first weekend of the regular season.

Sunday's opening game will send Seattle to Atlanta, where rookie quarterback Russell Wilson will try to lead the Seahawks to another unlikely step forward in the playoffs. Seattle was the only wild card team to win during the opening round with Wilson leading a comeback that saw the Seahawks down Washington 24-14.

Houston will visit New England to conclude the divisional round of the playoffs and the Texans will have to deal with the league's No. 1 offense guided by three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady.

When the teams met in December, New England coasted to a 42-14 victory.

Houston is the only team left in the playoffs that has never been to the Super Bowl. Atlanta and Seattle have been to the title game, but have yet to win it.

The conference championship games will be played on Jan. 20. The Denver-Baltimore winner will take on the New England-Houston survivor in the AFC title game with the kickoff in that one set for 6:30 p.m. ET.

The winners of the other two games this weekend will play for the NFC championship at 3 p.m.

The Super Bowl will be take place on Feb. 3 in New Orleans with a starting time of 6:30 p.m.

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