Sixty minutes away from Super Bowl XLVIII, Sunday’s conference championship games are everything a fan could ask for.
Anytime the two best quarterbacks in the last 25 years go head-to-head is always a special treat for both fans and players alike. Manning, who is 4-10 against Brady and 10-11 in the post-season, has a great chance to silence critics and naysayers in defeating his greatest nemesis—and rival in Brady at home in the Rocky Mountains.
Thanks to Adam Gase’s play calling(?) Manning has put up the best numbers in his storied and illustrious in yards passing (5,477) and touchdowns(55)—breaking Brady’s single-season touchdown mark set in 2007.
The dilemma for Manning is finally coming thru against Brady as home, whom has won two of three meetings in the AFC Championship Game, with Manning winning the last meeting 38-34 in 2006.
In the case of New England, they are not your daddy’s Patriots of old in putting up their usual prolific aerial attack, the Patriots have decided to go old-school in running the ball in the form of a three-head rushing attack led by LeGarette Blount, Shane Vareen and Steven Ridley.
Considering that the Patriots have done all of this with no Wes Welker—now in Denver—Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead or Brandon Lloyd, this is easily the best coaching job ever done by the NFL’s Darth Vader—Bill Belichick.
The key matchup in the AFC Championship Game is New England’s running game vs. Denver’s defense.
If the Patriots can consistent grind out solid runs, convert first downs and keep the Broncos defense on the field, it’ll keep Manning and the high-powered Broncos offense off of it, and open up play-action for Brady against a tired and worn-down Denver defense down the stretch.
Which this writer feels will happen in a road upset win for the Pats.
Prediction : New England 27 Denver 23
NFC Championship Game – San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks
Kaep vs Russ. The new quarterback rivalry of the NFL?
The way both teams, coaches and cities openly hate each other, fans on both sides will most likely be robbed of the chance to really see the two new faces in the form of Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick go head-to-head for many years to come.
As much as they hate each other, Seattle and San Francisco are mirror images of each other right down to both being the home of software giants in Microsoft and Google. That being said, San Francisco comes into the NFC Championship Game on a roll in winning impressively in Green Bay and Carolina.
Now up in their personal house of horrors—Seattle’s CenturyLink Field—they have a great chance to crush Seattle’s Super bowl dreams while silences the deafening 12th Man.
Can they? Possibly.
One x-factor that cannot be helped in the Niners resurgence is the return of wide receiver Michael Crabtree, Kapernick’s favorite target, who has provided a much-need spark in the post-season since returning from a torn Achilles.
In their 23-20 win over the Packers, Crabtree caught eight passes on 13 targets for 125 yards. While not scored a touchdown in the postseason, Crabtree is averaging 5.5 catches for 75.5 yards. Not the big playmaker that Anquan Boldin is, Crabtree could be key in helping the Niners avoiding potential long third-down conversions.
For Seattle, the key for the Seahawks will be containing Kaepernick with their edge rushers and forcing him to beat them with his arm, as opposed to his feet. Wilson will also need to make and convert big plays downfield when they are there and use play-action effectively.
While the Seahawks are the top seed in the NFC, they looked far from it against Drew Brees and the Saints, if not for Marques Colston having a Leon Lett/Bill Buckner-like mental error, Seattle may not be in this championship game.
For the Seahawks to win, expect them to use Wilson on rollouts, bootlegs, a steady diet of Marshawn Lynch and timely passes to Golden Tate on third down. If the Niners cannot stop this, expect another long, loud and rainy day in the pacific Northwest, which is where this writer is leaning.
Prediction : Seattle 31 San Francisco 21