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  • Broncos find the real Joe Flacco; Matty Ice melts

    In a sport of a different stripe, batting .500 is outta this world.

    So I’ll take what I can get.

    Your Gridiron Guru went 2-of-4 in last weekend’s wild-card games, as I got blindsided by Bengals and frisked by a Flacco.

    Looking back, I wasn’t tricked by the Texans – Cincinnati simply was even worse than I gave them credit for. Arian Foster made the Bengals’ supposedly staunch defense look silly in what was the only pretty aspect of an otherwise very unpretty game. Andy Dalton was ugliest of all: Three yards in a half? Where’s Tim Tebow when you need him?

    Now, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco was a surprise. The return of Ray Lewis to the Ravens’ lineup provided an emotional jolt that made Chuckstrong look pretty weak, and even Flacco seemed to get into the mood, throwing for 282 yards and two touchdowns without a single turnover. The 125.6-passer-rating Joe isn’t the one I know. That pick I’d make, again.

    In fact, I will:

    Saturday, Jan. 12

    Baltimore at Denver, 2:30 p.m. (KCNC, KREZ) – Flacco vs. Manning doesn’t exactly conjure visions of great quarterback duels of yore. This is where the real Flacco stands back up. You know, the one last seen in Denver lying face-down on the turf as Chris Harris sped by for a pick-6. If Baltimore has any hope at bucking the Broncos, it will come from the powerful legs of Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, who chugged to 103 yards last weekend. But Denver’s defense has a lot more horsepower than a Colt. Meanwhile, Lewis got the home send-off that he wanted, but the final-season fairy tale can’t last when another glove sighting proves that it’s hard to hang with the Broncos when you’re a mile high with Peyton Manning in Colorado. Pick: Broncos 33-19. Line: Broncos by 8˝.

    Green Bay at San Francisco, 6 p.m. (KOBF, KUSA) – Aaron Rodgers seems to be more machine now than man, twisted and evil – if you ask Vikings fans. The Pack’s quarterback simply can’t be stopped. If anything can slow him down, though, it’s the 49ers’ defense – if it shows up for the full 60. Still, a slower Rodgers ain’t no Flacco, so the Niners had better keep the hyperdrive humming, too. Week 1 is a long time ago in a memory far, far away at this point. Colin Kaepernick now leads San Francisco’s quest to become one with Lombardi Trophy, adding an extra twist to an already quirky offense that has shown it can pack a punch. The 49ers cannot escape their destiny, so if I’m a cheesehead, I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Pick: 49ers 32-30. Line: 49ers by 3.

    Sunday, Jan. 13

    Seattle at Atlanta, 11 a.m. (KASA) – We’ve all seen what happens to “Matty Ice” when that postseason heat cranks up. Seattle has the cornerback chops to keep Atlanta’s Julio Jones and Roddy White flying circles, which figures to make Matt Ryan melt. Again. The Falcons aren’t ready for the rolling Russell Wilson, and the Seahawks are set to prove they’re the baddest birds in the NFL. Pick: Seahawks 24-20. Line: Falcons by 3.

    Houston at New England, 2:30 p.m. (KCNC, KREZ) – in Week 14, the Patriots turned Schaub into a schlub in Foxborough. This week, more of the same. Houston will have to rely on its defense to keep the game close, but with with a veritable and versatile arsenal of weapons, Tom Brady won’t have much trouble ending the Texans one-game not-losing streak with alacrity. Plus: Houston, prepare to get Gronked. Pick: Patriots 38-23.Line: Patriots by 9˝.