Championship Sunday. It’s all down to the final four. Arguably, the best teams in the NFL are playing this weekend for the right to go to the Super Bowl. We have followed the ups and downs of all four of these teams all season. Two teams’ season will end. Two teams will be headed for Super Bowl 48 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
AFC Championship game: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
One cannot look at this game without first looking at the historic matchup at quarterback. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have been the best 2 quarterbacks in the NFL for over a decade. Both quarterbacks are first ballot hall of famers regardless of the outcome of this game. Brady has owned Manning winning 10 out of 14 matchups (including postseason) between the two. One of those games came during Week 12 of this season, an instant classic that saw the Patriots rally to win after being down 24-0. You have to wonder how much Peyton Manning has thought about this game and if it has given the Patriots a mental edge for the AFC Championship game. The biggest difference is the Patriots are playing their first road playoff game since 2006, which was also the last time the Patriots were underdogs in the playoffs (AFC championship loss to Peyton Manning’s Colts). Playing in one of the weakest divisions of football over the course of the last decade has given the Patriots home field advantage throughout many postseasons. Peyton Manning will try to overcome the Patriots’ monkey and advance to his 3rd Super Bowl. The Broncos have had a historically great offense but their defense has been an issue all year long. And for those wondering if the weather will be a factor in Denver, the forecast is calling for sunny weather with highs in the upper 50’s. This weather will be ideal for Manning but will also make Brady even more lethal. It’s hard to bet against Tom Brady in the playoffs even if it is on the road. But I picked the Broncos as AFC champions at the beginning of the season and I am going to stay with that pick.
My pick: Denver Broncos
NFC Championship game: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
This game is not just a divisional matchup. This game includes a lot of bad blood and has quickly become one of the NFL’s best current rivalries. Both teams won their home matchup against the other team this season. The 49ers look like they have peaked at the right time. They have played with a lot of swagger the last couple weeks, especially last week in their road playoff win against the Carolina Panthers. The Seahawks also looked great in their home win against the New Orleans Saints. The Seahawks at home have only lost one time since Russell Wilson was named starting quarterback. CenturyLink field has been called the most intimidating place to play in the NFL because of the seismic shockwaves that the stadium has literally made since its inception. The 49ers only lost twice on the road this season but one of those losses was to the Seahawks in Week 2 (a lopsided 29-3 Seahawks win). The 49ers turned over the ball 5 times, including 3 Colin Kaepernick interceptions, in that loss to the Seahawks. Forcing turnovers has been the Seahawks’ bread and butter all season long. They forced a league-high 39 turnovers with a +20 turnover margin, also an NFL high. Seattle’s number one defense will be tested against San Francisco’s tough running game which ranked 3rd in the NFL. Seattle’s running game is right behind the 49ers at 4th in the NFL and will test the 49ers 5th ranked defense. Just like the Broncos, I picked the Seahawks to go to the Super Bowl at the beginning of the year and I’m sticking with it. CenturyLink Field will be too much for the 49ers to overcome.
My pick: Seattle Seahawks
Championship Sunday is the last Sunday full of football for the year and so it is always a bittersweet day. Enjoy it while it lasts!