So now I suppose I don’t look so crazy after going 3-1 last weekend, including calling the 49ers road win at Carolina. Almost 4-0 if some breaks had went my way with the Chargers.
But still, don’t use my picks as betting advice.
Patriots at Broncos: We all recall what happened in Week 12 (Broncos took a big lead into halftime, Brady led Patriots back to win in overtime). But let’s throw all that out. This is the AFC Championship Game.
Peyton has the most to prove here. Sure, he’s been to 2 Super Bowls (1-1) but everyone says he chokes in the playoffs. He did it against the Ravens last year (more like Joe Flacco went on the hot streak of his life). And he definitely chokes against Tom Brady and the Patriots. The Broncos did enough to win last week but their convincing victories of the regular season seem like distant memories with a Super Bowl berth on the line.
I called it perfectly when I said the Patriots love winning those Divisional playoff games were everyone thinks the hot team (the Colts, fresh off their Miracle at Lucas Oil) will polish off the Sweatshirt and crew. LeGarrette Blount had 4 touchdowns as they welcomed Indy to true playoff football in Gillette Stadium. The Colts hung around until the 4th when a 7 point lead evaporated before their eyes. This is Tom Brady. This is Bill Belichick. The Patriots were built to win AFC playoff football games (and at one time Super Bowls, something Brady wants off his back after losing 2 straight to the Giants).
The game’s in Denver. Peyton wants to prove he can play in cold weather and beat Tom Brady (again). Wes Welker wants to make New England (and Brady’s wife) regret letting him leave. Denver’s defense wants to prove they’re still strong without Von Miller. John Fox wants revenge on the Patriots for their narrow victory over his Panthers in the 2004 Super Bowl. John Elway wants to look like a genius for gambling on Peyton (even though he already does) when no one knew if he could come back from neck surgery.
The Patriots want to prove that their system ultimately works as they try to win it all with their least talented roster in recent memory. Brady and Belichick want to win the Super Bowl again (something they haven’t done since news of Spygate broke in 2007), Blount has a new lease on his career and wants to run his way to a Championship to shut up his detractors. And the Pats are sick and tired of being called choke artists as well.
Winner: Patriots. This won’t be Peyton’s fault though. He’ll have quite the game. But New England will make the plays when they need them. And I just have an image of a crucial fumble getting away from Denver to a waiting Pats defender late in the proceedings. I’d rather see Peyton go though, as much as I hate the Broncos.
49ers at Seahawks: Another ridiculously tough game to call. Since Jim Harbaugh became the Niners coach, they’re 1-2 in Seattle, with the last 2 losses being blowouts. The Seahawks held the Saints scoreless until the 4th quarter last week and then they calmly gave the ball to Marshawn Lynch to close things out when Nawlins started to threaten. The 49ers held off an early Panthers push with a late first half touchdown to Vernon Davis to retake a lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way (and they held Carolina scoreless in the second half).
The 49ers are just as hot as they were in last year’s playoffs and they go into a similar situation: The Falcons had lost just 1 game at home all year. Seattle’s lost 1 in 2 seasons. They came back from a 17-0 deficit to win 28-24 in Atlanta. Who’s to say they won’t be facing a deficit early if the Seahawks come out firing today? But they did just go into Charlotte and win convincingly against a team that tried to repeatedly get in their heads and remind them of their 10-9 regular season loss. I don’t know…
Seattle is…well, built to last. There’s always a cog in this unit that’s working. Either the defense is stifling while the offense gets the kinks out, Lynch is racking up the yards and scores when the receivers just can’t get open (or Russell Wilson is scrambling for first downs), or Wilson slices and dices the secondary for scores. The D once again had Drew Brees looking baffled last week and it’s not hard to see them doing the same to Colin Kapernick (who’s only in his second season!).
Pete Carroll wants to win this and go to the Super Bowl badly. He wants to shut up everyone who mentions his previous NFL failures or the mess he left at USC. And John Harbaugh wants to keep the Lombardi Trophy in the family and finally (somewhat) put to rest the demons that still haunt him from the 1995 AFC Championship Game. The 12th Man wants to prove that they do matter at every single Seahawks home game, no matter how well opponents prepare for the noise. Russell Wilson wants to send notice (not that he hasn’t already) to the rest of the National Football League that they all made mistakes by not drafting him. Percy Harvin misses Brett Favre (couldn’t help it, sorry).
The bottom line of this game is Seattle’s defense. San Francisco’s is no slouch but their 11 doesn’t match the Seahawks’ 11. Defense wins championships: The Steel Curtain, the ’85 Bears, the Ravens last season and in 2000. Be ready folks, this imay be the true Super Bowl this season.
Winner: Seattle. I really hope these two just slug it out in a game filled with scoring, big time defensive plays, and hard (legal) hits. But I don’t think the Niners will get past the Seahawks’ defense when they need to. Unless they miraculously shut down Lynch and effectively keep Wilson in the pocket, I don’t like the 49ers’ chances, even with how well they’ve been playing. But all it takes is a key injury to swing things as well.
Because players get concussions if you look at them funny nowadays.