Here are my NFL championship weekend picks:
Patriots 27 Broncos 15
like love Tom Brady against Denver’s defense, but that is not going to be the main reason why New England wins this game. Peyton Manning is not what he used to be, and Bill Belichick’s defense will feast on this Broncos offense. The key will be stopping their running game, and with Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins both playing this time, I am confident the Pats won’t let Denver run roughshod over them. Then it turns into Peyton Manning trying to complete tough throws against tight man coverage, and he just doesn’t have the arm strength to do that anymore, particularly with only two viable weapons on the outside. If the Patriots can get their pass rush going as well, then Peyton honestly might not get out of this game alive. Also look for double-A gap blitzes on key occasions from New England to force Manning into bad decisions (as if he won’t have enough of them already).
On the other side of the ball, it’s going to come down to the Patriots winning their individual 1-on-1 matchups against these very good Denver DB’s. Rob Gronkowski will likely be doubled for a majority of the game, but whenever the Broncos leave him matched up 1-on-1, I expect Tom Brady to go to him. However the biggest mismatch the Patriots have is Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola in the middle of the field against an injured Chris Harris, Bradley Roby, and Denver’s linebackers. These guys know how to get open quickly, which will allow Brady to get rid of the ball, and Denver’s number one ranked pass rush won’t be able to get to him fast enough.
It may not be a complete domination, but the Patriots are just the better team. On to the Super Bowl.
Cardinals 24 Panthers 20
I have thought the Cardinals have been the better NFC team all season long, and while their play as of late hasn’t been up to par, I am going to stick with them to advance to Super Bowl 50. Their last two performances against the Seahawks and Packers showed a lot of flaws in this team, but I still think their abundance of offensive weapons and defensive prowess will be enough to outscore a Cam Newton-led offense that has vastly overachieved throughout this entire season. However even though Arizona has arguably the best receiving corps in the league, they need to get better quarterback play from Carson Palmer, who easily could have had 5 interceptions last week against Green Bay. If Palmer can settle down and play like he did for the majority of this past season, the Cards have enough firepower to get past the Panthers on the road. But if he turns the ball over a few times, the Panthers will be moving on.
Basically it comes down to this: If Carson Palmer doesn’t make stupid decisions and he has his offense flowing, Cam Newton won’t be able to muster up enough points from his offense to match Arizona. However if this is a turnover-filled matchup and it turns into a defensive slugfest, Carolina’s ability to run the ball and control the clock will make it very tough for the Cards to come out victorious.
In the end, I am putting my faith in Palmer and his electric offense to put up at least 24 points, and if Newton proves me wrong and outduels him, then hats off to Cam.