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2016 NFL Playoffs - Conference Championship Picks


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Posted

That Packers-Cardinals game will go down in history as one of the most memorable ever. :cheers:
Because I lucked into 4-0 last week, I have even less confidence in predicting the last games before the Super Bowl. :roll:


New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos (+3)
or Brady @ Manning XVII

While the Patriots lost to the Broncos back in November, that was with QB Brady throwing to nobody - no WR Amendola, Edelman, or TE Gronkowski for the final minutes of the fourth and in overtime. While Brady will have his weapons back, it's true that he hasn't had much luck in Denver, career-wise: 2-6, and zip -2 in the playoffs. Right now, Brady is the superior QB, with that quick release, but Manning has the superior defense and homefield advantage.

QB Manning wasn't great last week against the Steelers, but that could be factored by dropsies that infected his receiving corps (7 drops). Manning is a mortal 5-11 against Brady all-time, but he's at least 2-2 in the playoffs, and the home team won all games. However, because Manning is a pale shadow of his former self (throwing 17 picks to a mortal 9 touchdowns) it won't be enough to prevent Belichick and company from making their 7th Super Bowl.

New England by 2

Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers (-3)
It is rare to see two Heisman trophy winning QBs in Palmer and Newton face off in the playoffs, and even more so when they are the two top QBs from the past year.

The Panthers absolutely must pressure Palmer, refuse to allow him time to throw, or he will pick apart that defense. The Cardinals had trouble with QB Wilson, who is the closest thing to Newton in the NFL. The Cardinals are pass-oriented, while the Panthers base everything on their number 2 ranked rushing attack. Both teams are about equal defensively, with Cardinals slightly better against the run, and the Panthers slightly better against the pass. Palmer has the superior WR corps in Fitzgerald, et.al., but Newton is the more physical QB.

The biggest problem for the Panthers is that their secondary is crippled, and cannot really cover all three of the Cardinals' receivers (Fitz, Floyd, Brown). The Cardinals have enough depth to control the Panthers' receivers, including TE Olsen.

The NFC title game is a crapshoot, because in the past 8 years, all NFC title games have been decided by a single score or less, and four went into overtime. The strongest reason to go with the Panthers is that they haven't lost at home all season long. But the better reason to go with the Cardinals is that their defense is more reliable than the Panthers' receiving corps. :finger: 

Arizona by 3

Last Week: 4-0
Playoffs to Date: 7-1

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Posted

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos (+3)
or Brady @ Manning XVII

While the Patriots lost to the Broncos back in November, that was with QB Brady throwing to nobody - no WR Amendola, Edelman, or TE Gronkowski for the final minutes of the fourth and in overtime. While Brady will have his weapons back, it's true that he hasn't had much luck in Denver, career-wise: 2-6, and zip -2 in the playoffs. Right now, Brady is the superior QB, with that quick release, but Manning has the superior defense and homefield advantage.

QB Manning wasn't great last week against the Steelers, but that could be factored by dropsies that infected his receiving corps (7 drops). Manning is a mortal 5-11 against Brady all-time, but he's at least 2-2 in the playoffs, and the home team won all games. However, because Manning is a pale shadow of his former self (throwing 17 picks to a mortal 9 touchdowns) it won't be enough to prevent Belichick and company from making their 7th Super Bowl.

New England by 2

There is absolutely no way the Denver DBs can cover the New England receivers (especially Edelman) if Denver utilizes the same defensive strategy which they used against Pittsburgh. Denver's only hope then would in being able to get a pass rush that forces Brady to move. There is, however, a problem with the Patriots offense, and I'm not referring to the running game. No, I'm thinking about something unidentifiable or maybe just unnameable, and I'm not sure what it is. But what it is is output from the offense that is much less than is expected given Brady and his receivers. They simply do not score as many points as it seems that they should. What's up with that? Then again, and lucky for the Pats, the Denver offense is one of the least imaginative, most boring offenses in the league. On top of that, the drops last week might have been unusual in terms of the number of drops, but Thomas, in particular, has been infected with the dropsy bug in the few Broncos games I've seen.

 

Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers (-3)
It is rare to see two Heisman trophy winning QBs in Palmer and Newton face off in the playoffs, and even more so when they are the two top QBs from the past year.

The Panthers absolutely must pressure Palmer, refuse to allow him time to throw, or he will pick apart that defense. The Cardinals had trouble with QB Wilson, who is the closest thing to Newton in the NFL. The Cardinals are pass-oriented, while the Panthers base everything on their number 2 ranked rushing attack. Both teams are about equal defensively, with Cardinals slightly better against the run, and the Panthers slightly better against the pass. Palmer has the superior WR corps in Fitzgerald, et.al., but Newton is the more physical QB.

The biggest problem for the Panthers is that their secondary is crippled, and cannot really cover all three of the Cardinals' receivers (Fitz, Floyd, Brown). The Cardinals have enough depth to control the Panthers' receivers, including TE Olsen.

The NFC title game is a crapshoot, because in the past 8 years, all NFC title games have been decided by a single score or less, and four went into overtime. The strongest reason to go with the Panthers is that they haven't lost at home all season long. But the better reason to go with the Cardinals is that their defense is more reliable than the Panthers' receiving corps. :finger: 

Arizona by 3

Jared Allen has a broken foot, Based upon stats, it would seem that this injury should not really make that much of a difference. But I'm not convinced that missing player who only had a couple of sacks is not that big of a deal in this case. Regardless, the real question is: What happened to Carolina - on offense and defense - in the second half? A replay of the Giants game near fiasco. The Panthers definitely have a couple of DBs who are liabilities. With regards to the QBs, my guess is that it would be Palmer who'd be most rattled by the fact that this is a title game.

 

All that said, since I simply have to have a contrarian pick - right? - I'll say that Carolina wins. And so does New England.

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Posted

The Denver defense was outstanding -- especially before the injuries to the safeties, and the Denver coaches seriously out-coached the Pats coaches. Makes for a very interesting Super Bowl match-up, one for which it should be quite easy to have a contrarian pick.

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Posted

I read that Brady was hit more times (20, I think) than any other quarterback since 2006. That's on the O line and no one could expect to put together any kind of offense in those conditions. Still, if the extra point had not been missed, the game would've gone to overtime with the momentum with the Patriots, so I'm not sure if this amounts to being out-coached. Manning missed open throws all day and should've put the game beyond New England; that would be my concern if I was a Denver fan who had just seen the Panthers put 49 on the second-best team in the league this year.

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Posted

I dunno, missing on two fourth down plays when a FG in either case would have made it a five point instead of an eight game? No matter what Belichick says, those were dubious coaching decisions. And, sure, blame can be put on the o-line, but why couldn't Brady get the ball out on his expected 2 seconds? The Broncos definitely changed up their scheme from what they used the week before. Still, I agree about Manning's passing. He missed way too many open receivers.

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Posted

The AFC championship game sounded like a great game by all accounts. :cheers:  

Of course I failed to watch it, due to family commitments: my little sister's birthday party at a nice Persian restaurant by the beach. That I forgot to set up the DVR is entirely my fault. Were it the Super Bowl... :hand:  

Glad that Peyton Manning gets a chance to limp off the sunset with a ring. 

I did manage to catch the first quarter of that horrific NFC title game: Carson Palmer suffered a Full Delhomme (quarterback turns the ball over 5 times) at the worst possible time. :doh: 

Stopped watching the massacre by the middle of the second quarter. Palmer was up against a potentially all time great team on the road, fighting off that 10 years of Bengals stink, etc. :shakehead:  I should've known better. 

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Posted

Watched all of each. Pretty good afternoon of football. In light of Brady's struggles hitting targets, I'm not sure Manning was entirely on the hook for the misses. Still, I'm guessing not being able to plant completely is something he still hasn't adjusted to. There were plenty of excellent completions, though, e.g., the first TD to Daniels.

I'm hoping the SB is a good game, and I know Kubiak and Manning and the rest of the Broncos team know what to look for, what to prepare for. It'll be pretty impressive to see Carolina struggle, given how much fun they're having and especially how much fun they had beating the Cardinals. I don't know that Palmer's passing index finger wasn't perhaps more problematic than Peyton's foot, though, and so made Carolina look even tougher when the Cardinals had to go all-in on a passing strategy.

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