January 19, 2014 2 p.m.CST
Spread: Denver -5 ½
When I originally started to write this, I tried hard to avoid the Brady vs. Manning narrative. However, the more research that was done, the more I realized that the Brady-Manning narrative defines this game.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady meet again for their fifteenth match-up against each other. Brady has dominated the head-to head series, leading with a 10-4 record. More importantly Brady is 2-1 against Manning in the playoffs.
However, this game will be much different than the previous fourteen. This is the chance for Manning to overcome his doubters. Although Manning has statistically had one of the best careers of all-time, Manning has been defined by his struggles in the playoffs. Over the years, Manning has faltered in the postseason—only posting a 10-11 record.
Manning’s career has been defined by his head-to-head matchup against Brady. Brady has stood in Manning’s way throughout his career. The first, and only, time Manning beat Brady in the playoffs led to his only Super Bowl victory.
As Manning’s career comes to a close, this could be the final Brady vs. Manning playoff matchup. It is a chance for Manning to beat Brady one more time and lead his Broncos to a Super Bowl.
The narrative for Brady isn’t much different. Brady has made five super bowl appearances and won three.
But Brady hasn’t been able to hoist the Lombardi trophy since 2005. An AFC Championship win over Manning and a Super Bowl win will add to his legacy as one of the best quarterbacks of all-time.
As for the team matchups, the Broncos and Patriots represent two opposite offenses.
The Broncos are a pass happy team. Manning threw for a NFL record 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards. Manning and the Broncos throw the ball because they have great receivers—Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas.
The Patriots are a team dedicated to running the ball. With a stable of solid running backs—Legarrette Blount, Steven Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden—the Patriots have had success pounding the rock. Blount showed the Patriots dedication to the run with a four touchdown performance against the Colts in the AFC Divisional round.
Both defenses are average but the Broncos have been ravaged with injuries. Denver will be without outside linebacker Von Miller, cornerback Chris Harris and defensive end Derek Wolfe.
With the narrative set, the winner of the AFC Championship game will be determined by which quarterback plays the best. Will Manning prevail over Brady or will it be Brady once again walking off a winner against Peyton Manning?
NFC Championship Game: San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks
January 19, 2014 5:30 p.m. CST
Spread: Seattle -3 ½
The San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks will play their third game this season when the 49ers travel to Seattle to play in the NFC Championship game.
The 49ers will be playing in their third consecutive NFC Championship game and will look to advance their second Super Bowl in-a-row.
The Seahawks return for to the NFC Championship game for the first time since 2006.
The two teams split their regular season matchup. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers in Seattle 29-3 and the 49ers won in San Francisco 19-17.
The Seahawks and 49ers have equally great offensive and defensive units.
The Seahawks and 49ers possess top ten defenses. The 49ers rank fourth in total defense and the Seahawks in ninth.
The Seahawks arguably have the best secondary in the NFL led by Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman.
The 49ers boast one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL, Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowmen, Aldon Smith and Carlos Rogers lead the defense.
The Seahawks and 49ers offenses are led by two of the NFL’s rising stars—Russell Wilson and Collin Kaepernick, respectively.
The 49ers have a reliable running back in Frank Gore and Seahawks have a dominant back in Marshawn Lynch.
Although both teams mirror each other, the Seahawks have a clear home field advantage. Known for their rambunctious crowd, CenturyLink Field is one of the loudest stadiums in all of sports.
The key to the game will be the 49ers overcoming the Seahawks home-field advantage. The 49ers have lost their last two game in Seattle by a combined 71-16.
Will the Seahawks continue their home domination over the 49ers or will the 49ers defeat the Seahawks in Seattle and advance to their second consecutive super bowl?