Last week, I managed a 2-2 showing, correctly predicting Seattle’s win over the Saints and the Broncos’ win against the Chargers.
Indianapolis, unfortunately for me, looked like the team that you saw on paper. Andrew Luck’s promising playoff career will only get better. Hopefully the Colts run defense does too because they were trounced by the Patriots rushing attack. Don’t get me wrong though… the Patriots can run the ball against anyone.
I picked the Panthers last week because crazier things have happened in the playoffs. It was hard to genuinely believe that Carolina would have what it takes to beat a battle-tested 49ers playoff team, but I don’t regret the pick. Cam Newton and the Panthers should be back and will be very dangerous if the offense can become a more consistent and complete attack. Then again… isn’t that what everyone is striving for anyway?
If you have any questions or simply want to discuss my Conference Championship Predictions, simply contact me and I’ll try to get back as soon as I can.
Saturday, 1/19 – 3:00 pm ET
New England Patriots 12-4 @ Denver Broncos 13-3
Prediction: Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady meet again with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, but the difference in this game, at least until the final two minutes, could be more about the rest of their respective teams, particularly each teams run game. The Patriots have re-focused their offense, yet again, and despite missing tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots are as dangerous as ever behind their three-headed backfield of LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. Blount has the hot-hand as of late, scoring four touchdowns last week and rushing for 166 yards in the Patriots’ win over Indianapolis. You have to be impressed with their ability to adjust their gameplan so easily. New England won, 43-22, last week after all and Brady threw just shy of 200 yards passing, which shows how the Patriots are so capable of taking what the defense gives them and not necessarily needing Brady to throw for 400 yards.
On defense, New England has the coaching and some key players, specifically Aqib Talib in the secondary, who could play a huge role in the game’s outcome. The Patriots did give up 224 rushing yards to Knowshon Moreno in their regular season matchup (Manning only threw for 150 yards though), which will be a game-changer if Moreno isn’t contained.
I personally, I like the Broncos in this one, when it is all said and done. Manning has history going against him, but I fully believe that this is his year. I picked Denver to win the Super Bowl back in August and I’m sticking to it. I like Moreno’s ability to run the ball against New England, who has struggled against the run since Vince Wilfork went down to injury earlier this season. Manning has a litany of receiving options and has game tape from their 34-31 overtime loss in New England to study and prepare from. With him struggling in that game, I believe he will have more to work with a prepare for, giving him the advantage. I also think the Broncos defense, while not perfect, has been great as of late, and they get to play at home, which should the final push they need. I like the Broncos to contain New England’s rushing attack (allowing just over 100) and put pressure on Brady to win the game. Brady will certainly make it a game, but the lack of high-profile playmakers like Manning has should be the difference down the stretch.
Saturday, 1/19 – 6:30 pm ET
San Francisco 49ers 12-4 @ Seattle Seahawks 13-3
Prediction: San Francisco 49ers
Ok, I get it. The Seahawks are at home. They are the most complete, in terms of both depth and talent, team in the NFL and that combined with the home crowd makes them impossible to pick against in most all cases.
That said, I am taking San Francisco.
Seattle has a great power run game. They have a capable, not elite, young quarterback in Russell Wilson who can impact games if asked to. Seattle has the most talented secondary in the game, which makes their already talented pass rush and run defense even more frightening. Throw in the fact that they have only lost at home once in nearly two years and it is a tall order for the 49ers.
The problem I have picking the Seahawks is that everything is a little too perfect for them. They also have to play an equally talented and hard-nosed divisional opponent for third time in the season. I don’t trust Colin Kaepernick completely as he does spend timeouts a little too early in games at times where he shouldn’t have to. He isn’t a perfect passer by any means and has struggled mightily in Seattle, in large part because of his developing passing abilities. Kaepernick will have a profound impact on this game though, running for key yardage and making the important throws he needs to make down the stretch. For San Francisco, having Michael Crabtree back and healthy is huge as he will give them a third, phenomenal receiving option in addition to Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin, who is on a mission when he gets into the playoffs it seems.
The 49ers defense is fantastic in its own right and should be able to limit the Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch’s effectiveness. If that happens, the game will come down to Wilson, who hasn’t shown the killer instinct in the passing game that you would like to see of a time thinking Super Bowl. Despite mistakes from Kaepernick, as you would expect facing this type of defense, this game will come down to the wire and I, personally, believe San Francisco will have what it takes to edge out the Seahawks at the end.