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Backup quarterbacks aren't exactly the way to spice up TV ratings.

If the NFL was hoping for excitement galore in last weekend's wild-card games to improve slumping season-long ratings, it didn't happen. With Derek Carr (Oakland) and Ryan Tannehill (Miami) sidelined by injuries, the AFC games were basically decided beforehand.

Only Aaron Rodgers' heroic effort in leading Green Bay past the New York Giants saved the wild-card weekend from being a total disaster.

Luckily, the pretenders have left the stage and the stars are back to save the NFL.

This weekend's four divisional playoff games, with the exception of one, figure to be close affairs that should pump some life into the telecasts.

If you could only watch one playoff game this weekend, the call would be easy. Rodgers leads the Packers into Dallas to face the NFC's best team in the regular season at 3:40 p.m. Sunday on Fox.

The Cowboys haven't been "America's Team" in a long time. But rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have transformed Dallas into a threat to go to its first Super Bowl since 1996.

Getting past Rodgers should be a daunting task. As the Packers' star proved against the Giants, he's the most dangerous player in the NFL.

Rodgers pulled off another "Hail Mary" pass for a touchdown against the Giants at the end of the first half. Maybe Cowboy fans better start saying their prayers now.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots practically have a gimme in an AFC divisional game Saturday (7:15 p.m. on CBS). Houston QB Brock Osweiler, who regained his job by default, has zero chance of winning in Foxborough.

The other two games — Seattle at Atlanta in the NFC (3:35 p.m. Saturday, Fox) and Pittsburgh at Kansas City in the AFC (7:20 p.m. Sunday, NBC) — figure to be coin flips.

Experience favors Seattle and Pittsburgh, but winning on the road is never easy in January.

College BB: Wichita State at Illinois State (ESPN2, 7 p.m. Saturday): The Missouri Valley Conference's best two teams try to show the nation the league is still pretty decent at the top.  

NHL: Wild at Blackhawks (NBCSN, 6 p.m. Sunday): Minnesota and the Blackhawks are slugging it out for the Central Division lead and possibly avoiding St. Louis in a first-round playoff series.

NBA: Cavaliers at Warriors (TNT, 7 p.m. Monday): Expect Golden State fans to want plenty of 3-pointers, and revenge, after seeing Cleveland erase a 3-1 deficit in last year's finals.

Contact Jim Benson at


Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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