We have reached the final four and there really is not much argument here: the teams remaining are the cream of the crop in the NFL. We have the Denver Broncos, who have absolutely lit it up this season, the New England Patriots, who keep on doing their winning thin despite their multiple losses this season, and the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, who have been churning out flashy offense to go along with their stingy and physical defenses. Championship Sunday will truly be a sight to see and I cannot wait to see how these games play out. Continue reading for my predictions regarding each of these two tantalizing contests.
Sunday, January 19th, 3:00 e.t.
New England Patriots (13-4) @ Denver Broncos (14-3)
Of course, we can’t talk Patriots/Broncos without bringing up the penultimate quarterback rivalry that goes along with it: Brady vs. Manning. This will be the fifteenth time that these two fine players have matched wits and it is the first time the two will do so in the Championship game since 2006. However, there is going to be way more going on in this game other than the quarterback play. For example, the Patriots running game has begun to blossom out of nowhere and I expect to see it in full force this Sunday. The easiest way to defeat a high scoring team like the Broncos is, again, to hold the ball and not allow them to score. The easiest way to dominate the time of possession is by converting on third downs and the easiest way to convert on third downs is by staying out of unfavorable 3rd and 8+ situations. That is why you can expect New England to pound the ball early on; they will do so to stay on schedule. Tom Brady will look for Shane Vereen out of the backfield on third down as well as Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman in the middle of the field. If the Pats can dink and dunk their way down the field in this game, they will have it made. How do the Broncos stop this? Well, they will need to prevent them from gaining momentum on the ground. Last week against San Diego, the Denver front-seven did a masterful job at shutting down the Chargers’ running game (one that has been very strong over the past month) and I can see them doing it again this Sunday. Even though he has popped a couple of big ones, LeGarrette Blount isn’t anybody who is going to scare you with a home run ball on every down. As long as the D-linemen stay in their gaps, they should be able to slow the Patriots running game down. When that happens it will be up to #12 to carry his team. Unfortunately I think the lack of explosive receivers will hinder their ability to keep up with a Peyton Manning led offense and we will see Denver take this one. It also doesn’t hurt that they will be playing at home. This should be a good game and an intriguing quarterback duel, but at the end of the day I am hedging my bets towards Peyton and the Denver offense to get the job done.
Denver 34, New England 28
Sunday, January 19th, 6:30 e.t.
San Francisco 49ers (14-4) @ Seattle Seahawks (14-3)
What we will have here is, perhaps, the most intense championship games that the league has seen in years. It pits two hated NFC West rivals and two teams that are built similarly from the ground up. Each has a strong running game and a heck of a defense with an exciting young quarterback who can make a few “wow” plays per game. Add to this the fact that it will be played in front of a rowdy Seattle crowd, a group that prides itself in being the loudest supporters of their team in the world, and you have the ultimate setting for an epic clash. San Fran is coming in hot, having won their last eight straight. They have also won their last four road games and come into the Emerald City riding a huge wave of momentum. This offense is moving the ball very well and the defense is continuing to show an ample amount of toughness and stinginess to go with it. For them, they will meet the NFL’s best home team in the Seahawks. Seattle is almost unbeatable at home and they have slaughtered the Niners the last two times they have made the trip up north. However, I think things will go a bit differently this time and here is why: the ‘Hawks have not shown me much (as of late) on offense. Russell Wilson has looked quite ordinary at times and the rest of the team has looked out of sync. Had it not been for a nice outing from Marshawn Lynch last week, Seattle may not even be in this game this week. Wilson is going to have to do way better than 9/18 for 103 yards against the 49ers. He is also going to have to do a better job completing his underneath routes with great accuracy (this is something he struggled with against New Orleans). Even though Lynch has had some nice games in recent history against San Fran, you cannot count on him to do it again this week. Vic Fangio’s defense has too much pride and can absolutely wreck a game if they are strong, and after seeing them play the way they did last week against Carolina (especially near the goal line and in the second half), there is no doubt in my mind that these guys are the team to beat. Simply put, I have a lot of confidence in the 49ers defense as well as their offense whereas I only have confidence in Seattles’ defense. This should be a physical and hard-nosed football game, but in the end I see San Francisco walking away with the “W”. They are the hottest team in the league right now and I find it hard to pick against them.
San Francisco 21, Seattle 20
Championship Sunday should be a fun ride and you can expect that I will be back at the conclusion of these games to give you my thoughts. I think we will all witness two very good games between the four best teams in football, and that is really what this sport is all about. I cannot think of four more deserving teams to slug it out this weekend to see who wins a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII. Enjoy the action and make sure to check back for more NFL breakdowns!
My Projected Super Bowl XLVIII Match-up
San Francisco 49ers vs. Denver Broncos