NFL Conference Championship Preview

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Five wins. Three losses. Not a bad record. Not great but not bad by any means. That’s my post-season so far after a 3-1 Division round. Last year I went 3-5 at this same point so I’m already ahead of the game. Now we’ve come to the conference championships. It’s the equivalent of Double Jeopardy, where the scores can really change.

Throw the records out. Throw the stats out. Wait, no, don’t do that. If you did, I’d have nothing to write about!! This isn’t a weekend of first time meetings. The Seahawks and 49ers are division rivals. Brady and (Peyton) Manning are personal rivals. We’ve seen these stories before but now it’s on the grandest stage. A trip to the Super Bowl in New York/New Jersey is on the line. It is time for champions to arise. It’s time for NFL football…

New England at Denver
September 8, 2013. A date which will live in infamy. Well, maybe not in American history but in my history. On that date I released my AFC predictions. Who did I have in the title game? That’s right, the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos. Now I’m not saying I’m a genius, just brilliant. It really isn’t shocking that these teams are here. If this game is anything like the week 12 Sunday night match then we are all in for a treat.

The Broncos jumped out to a 17-0 lead after the first quarter and a 24-0 halftime advantage. As most people turned off their televisions the Patriots made arguably the best comeback of the season. They ran off 31 straight points. Denver managed to tie the game with just over three minutes left in the game before falling in OT on a field goal.

The biggest reason for the Patriots win was their defenses ability to limit Manning. Peyton threw for only 150 yards, his worst of the year by far. He’ll try to get back on track today and show why he set so many records this year. Speaking of records, don’t think rival Tom Brady didn’t notice his TD record fall. I’m sure he wants some redemption for that. He will try to continue his winning ways over Peyton. Although Brady is only 2-1 against Manning in the post-season he owns a 10-4 overall record against him. Brady will be playing in his eight AFC title game and third in a row today. Look up the word consistent in the dictionary and his picture is there.

While most people will be looking forward to a shootout between the two eventually hall-of-farmers we may get just the opposite. The best defense is usually a good offense and both teams could use their running game to slow the clock, stretch the chains and keep the other QB off the field. I know the game today is all about touchdown passes and high scores. No one cares about the running games it’s not what the fans want. That’s just what you may get though.

The Broncos have Knowshon Moreno in the backfield and he has been a workhorse this season. In the week 12 match between these teams he totaled 224 yards on the ground and scored a touchdown. His counter part today will be LeGarrett Blount who is coming off one of the all-time greatest games in playoff history. Blount torched the Indianapolis Colts for 166 yards and four touchdowns. Yes, I said four touchdowns!!

One little side note not about the running game. Denver tight end. Julius Thomas missed the first meeting against the Pats. He will play today and he has been a big target for Manning, especially in the red zone. Don’t be surprised to see him score today.

This will be Brady’s first road playoff game since 2006 so it will be interesting to see how he plays being away from the friendly confines of Foxborough. In the three playoff meetings between Brady and Manning the home team has won each time. I see no reason to suspect a change today. When I picked these two teams to meet back in September I wrote: “In one of the greatest games played Manning edges Brady in overtime as Matt Prater kicks a 43 yard field goal on the third possession of the quarter.” Can’t back off of that now.
FINAL SCORE–> BRONCOS 34, PATRIOTS 31 (OT)

San Francisco at Seattle
These two teams are as familiar as peanut butter and jelly. As familiar as macaroni and cheese. As familiar as Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Well, you get the idea.
The Seahawks worked hard this year to get home field in this game. It could prove to be the big factor. In the lat two game between these franchises in Seattle the Seahawks have outscored San Francisco by a combined 71-16. Earth and Mars aren’t that far apart. Add to that the fact that Seattle has won six straight home playoff games and it could spell disaster for San Fran.

The biggest part of this game for the 49ers will prove to be the play of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He has not played well when visiting Seattle. In two games he has thrown for only 185.5 yards a game and thrown four interceptions. In the week 2 meeting between the teams Colin had a mere 127 yards through the air and three picks. Disgusting. If he wants to succeed today he needs to look Anquan Boldin’s way. Boldin came up big for Baltimore last year in their run to the Super Bowl. He picked up right where he left off this year. Last week against the Panthers he grabbed 8 catches for 136 yards.

Much like the Broncos/Patriots game this one could be won or loss with the running backs. Back in week two, 49ers back Frank Gore ran a putrid 9 times for a horrible 16 yards. To put that in perspective Kaepernick ran nine times as well but gained eighty-seven yards. That’s five times as many for all you mathematically challenged folks. Gore did gain 110 yards on 17 carries in the rematch but that game was in San Francisco. On the other sideline is “The Beast” himself, Marshawn Lynch. Lynch totaled 135 yards in the week 2 meeting. He also scored three times and is the main reason for the Seahawks 29-3 win. In fact, Marshawn has enjoyed much success against the 49ers in Seattle. In four games he has totaled 112.5 yards per game and four TDs.

Even the QBs running the ball should be a deciding factor. During the season Kaep ran 92 times while Russell Wilson ran 96 times. Pretty darn close. Even closer when you see that Kaep had 524 yards on the ground while Wilson had 539. A lot of “experts” have said that if this game took place on a neutral field then San Francisco would easily win. I beg to differ. Even when the teams met in San Fran during the season the 49ers need a field goal with twenty-six seconds left to squeak out a 19-17 victory.

Unlike the AFC title game I didn’t pick these two for this game. I had Seattle beating Green Bay in my NFC predictions. I did however have Seattle beating San Francisco in the NFC divisional round. About the game I wrote: “These teams know each other and the Seahawks use hard hitting defense to rattle Colin Kaepernick. A late punt return for a score seals the game for Seattle”. Can’t back off that now.
FINAL SCORE–> SEAHAWKS 41, SAN FRANCISCO 20

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