And so it’s come to this, folks. We’re down to the NFL’s final four, and the last 3 games of the year (I don’t count the Pro Bowl. That’s for sadists) before we get sent back to Sports Siberia and we’re left with all the other lesser sports for what feels like 13 years despite it only being like 7 months.
These final 4 teams, the Broncos & Patriots and the Seahawks & 49’ers are also the RIGHT teams left standing. For as much as the NFL has proven over the years that parity does indeed work (and that’s putting it mildly) what with teams like the 2011 Giants and 2012 Ravens juuusssssssstttt squeaking into the playoffs, getting hot at the right time, and then ending up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, it’s nice to know that every once in a while dominance and home field advantage pays off, and football feels like the good ol’ days again.
Y’know, except for all the fruity rules that rob defenses from doing anything to receivers and smashing quarterbacks; but sure.
Anyway, the last time two #1 seeds from either conference made the SuperBowl was 2009 (Saints & Colts) and while I personally hope that doesn’t happen (I’m a Patriots fan) I can see why everyone else does. Either way, I think we’re in for not just a great, but PHENOMENAL Sunday of football, so let’s dive in!
New England +5.5 @ Denver
I realize that what I’m about to say is downright offensive to championship starved fan bases like the Cleveland Browns or Atlanta Falcons, but I just want one more. You don’t understand. I NEED one more. I just can’t keep on in this world as a sports fan- check that- as a Patriots fan, knowing that Tom Brady never won another Superbowl.
The guy is everything I ever could have asked to root for as a fan of this once miserable franchise, and it’s been an honor to watch his mastery over this past decade, but he should have MORE rings, and I (along with every other Pats fan) have an unbridled lust to have him win another just so he can never be taken out of the conversation as one of the five best ever to play the game.
He loses another one? Or the Patriots fall this weekend? How many runs does he have left being on the wrong side of 30? I just think that this run might be the last run. But then again, I’ve literally been saying that every year since 18-and-1. With the goofy new rules, he might be able to play until he’s like, 50!
Either way, as far as the AFC Championship game is concerned, this is as good theater as the NFL could possibly ask for.
The two very best and heavily debated Qb’s of the past decade plus, going head to head in a Championship- win or go home atmosphere for perhaps the very last time.
The Patriots are a weak defensive team as they ranked 26th overall in the NFL and were a horrible 30th in the NFL against the run. Then again, losing Vince Wilfork in the first month will do that to you. That said, one of the staples of a Bill Belichick D is that they tighten up in the red zone. They ranked 10th for points allowed. Offensively, they ranked 7th overall in the NFL, 3rd for scoring, and LeGarrett Blount might be the story of the playoffs thus far, what with his ode to Al Bundy last weekend, scoring 4 touchdowns on the ground.
For the Broncos, stupid Big Head Manning boasted the NFL’s top ranked offense for passing and scoring. Defense is the issue as Denver ranked 19th overall in the NFL and 22nd for points allowed. Denver ranked 27th in the NFL for passing defense which HAS to be a concern against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Really, I can’t even tell you why I’m taking the Patriots, but I just am. Maybe it’s because they remind me of the early Brady Patriots, where they focused on running the ball, keeping the other team’s offense on the sidelines, forcing timely turnovers, and just letting Brady do enough with the limited offensive weaponry he’s got to work with. Maybe it’s because Denver’s defense is coached by Jack Del Rio, and Tom Brady is 7-and-0 lifetime against any defense coached by that big meathead. Maybe it’s because I still believe Peyton Manning will piss his pants in the playoffs like he’s wont to do.
And maybe because I just want to believe that this is the last one, that will culminate in New York (New Jersey, but whatever) and Brady & Belichick’s last ring together.
Here’s to hoping.
Patriots 30 Broncos 28
San Francisco +3.5 @ Seattle
Oh how I LOVE how much these two teams genuinely detest each other. You can’t put a price on that kind of quality sports hate. From the coaches, to the players, to the fans, each and every time the Seahawks and Niners battle, you can just FEEL everyone seething and looking to spit in each other’s faces. It’s so great.
The Niners aren’t just playing good football at the right time, they’re playing MEAN football at just the right time. They didn’t just push around the Carolina Panthers on their home field last weekend, they straight up pushed their shit in like it was a prison rape. (Very graphic, I know. But it’s true!)
They’re balanced on offense, filthy on defense, and they’re as hot a team that’s left of the final 4.
For Seattle, they obviously have NFL’s top ranked defense both overall and for points allowed, and they too play mean and are frightening for any offense to face. Offensively, The Seahawks ranked 4th in the NFL for rushing offense and ranked 9th for scoring, but if you’re like me and you watched that game against the Saints last weekend, that Seahawks offense just left one feeling like it wasn’t going to be enough to really put this team over the hump and get them to the SuperBowl. I’m sorry, I just don’t see it, ESPECIALLY against that Niners defense.
The wild card here is also Pom Pom Pete Carroll. A man who I despise with the power of a thousand suns for the hideous coaching job he did with the (kinda stacked) late 90’s Patriots teams. He’s corny, he’s a geek, and he’s been known to make a boneheaded decision at the worst possible time. I feel like one of those kind of times rears it’s ugly head on Sunday evening.
Seattle’s home field advantage is most certainly real. I’ve been there, and it’s nuts, and that crowd is surprisingly salty (and kinda violent) but a 12th man isn’t going to be enough for the buzz saw that is the 49’ers this Sunday.
Niners 21 Seattle 20