By Sean Simara @Sean_FootyMad
So we’re down to the final four teams in the race to Super Bowl 50. Who will be heading to San Francisco? Here’s my take on who will make it to the biggest game of them all.
AFC Championship Game
New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos
We knew it would end like this didn’t we? Another chapter and probably the last chapter in the Tom Brady v Peyton Manning book. I mentioned at the start of the year that New England might have been on a mission after deflate-gate to eliminate any suspicion off the records and go for back-to-back Super Bowls.
The Patriots are one step away from that. The way Tom Brady was playing at the start of the year it was a case of Pats v someone in this game. He did lose a lot of his stars through the year: Gronkowski, Amendola & Edelman were all injured at some point this season but they got through it and find themselves here. This will be a staggering 10th AFC Conference game for Tom Brady. If he isn’t already the best ever quarterback in the NFL then I would like you to point out who is. His record speaks for itself. In fact, between the Brady and Manning, they have 5 Super Bowl rings between them.
New England did lose to Denver Broncos in the regular season but that was Brock Osweiler at QB that day. This time it will be Peyton Manning at centre
and it has been a crazy season for him personally: ups and downs, injuries, losing his place then getting it back again. He is of course better then Osweiler. Manning is a master of reading the game, be it trying to make the defence to jump early or predicting the blitz, Manning can still do this like no other.
How can Denver win this game? In front of an expectant home crowd they will be praying that he can do it one last time. They do have one of the best defences in the NFL so they will need to be at the top of their game Sunday. They will need to steal the ball off Brady and he will throw it a lot so they will definitely get an opportunity – they just need to take it.
It is a tight contest to call; Denver will have to feed CJ Anderson and run at the Patriots. This tactic brought them success over the Pittsburgh Steelers and they have to use this to beat down the Patriots. That is what I imagine New England will be expecting and will have to try and stop.
For me it will be the opposite for New England, they will throw and throw. I’m backing Tom Brady to get the Pats through this one and make another visit to the Super Bowl.
NFC Championship Game
Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers
Their respective journeys to this game were markedly different and produced two sensational games. The Arizona Cardinals had to win in OT against the Green Bay Packers which was one of the best games of the year. It saw another Hail-Mary from Aaron Rodgers then Larry Fitzgerald got involved. The veteran wide receiver ran and ran he eventually got into the end zone, winning the game for the Cardinals.
Carolina blitzed Seattle in the first half. They were all over the Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson, getting a pick 6 and they were rolling 31-0. Then it all changed and Seahawks racked up 24 unanswered points but it was too little too late. The second half display, especially from Wilson was a sight to behold. He nearly threw them out of that massive hole they found themselves in. Nevertheless, they are a young team and will bounce back.
It’s the Panthers who move forward though with a big thank you to Luke Kuechly the linebacker who has had great breakthrough year, got the pick 6 off Wilson and also a late knockdown that halted the Seahawks. He will once again be key against Arizona and I also expect Ted Ginn Jnr to have more influence in this match too. So how do they get past the Cardinals here? This will be the first time in the post season that the two starting QBs are former Heisman Trophy winners. Carson Palmer needs to relax – some wild throws in the game against Green Bay were not punished enough and this time he won’t get away with it. The Cardinals are of course the number two seed, but in my opinion they have been really lucky.
So in this one I’m going for my man Cam Newton to come out on top and deliver. He has had a sensational year, was my MVP and has been entertaining all year. So, at the Bank of America Stadium, I’m backing him and head coach Ron Rivera to be heading to Super Bowl 50. You could say it will be ‘Sweet Caroline’.
Who do you have for the Championship games? Will Payton reach one last Super Bowl? Will the Panthers mega year come to an abrupt stop? Let me know what you think.