Who’s going to Super Bowl 50?

NFL Picks – Conference Championship Games

Now that was a great weekend of football! Most of our favorite teams are sitting at home right now licking their wounds, making changes, and building plans for next season, and the top four teams in the league are left fighting for a chance at Super Bowl glory. I won’t waste time talking about last week. This weekend’s forecast in Denver and Charlotte are featuring some wet weather, so how will that influence the matchups and game plans? We’ve got the top two seeds left in each conference fighting it out, let’s dive in!

#2 Patriots (-3) at #1 Broncos

Brady VS Manning: A Finale? This will be the fifth meeting in the playoffs and 17th overall between the two HOF quarterbacks.

Oh Peyton, we’ve had some fun these past 18 years. You’ve given us some laughs, a ton of memorable moments, and a whole lot of touchdowns. It’s sad to think that if the Broncos fail to win Sunday that it could be the final game for Manning. Reports have been swirling lately whether or not he would or even should retire.

Some people will point to Peyton Manning’s poor performance during the regular season and his so-so game against a bad Steeler’s secondary as evidence that the Patriots have this game in the bag. While I may be a fan of the first ballot Hall of Fame QB, I still believe there is more to this matchup than that. In four playoff meetings the two QBs have split, 2-2, with the home team winning each game. Brady is 2-6 lifetime playing at Mile High Stadium. The game is in Denver this weekend, but it’s also going to be cold and rainy (47°F is the predicted high temp), something of a Kryptonite for Manning. Perhaps that is not a telling a stat, but then again neither is this. They’re both small samples of bigger stories.

Brady and Belichick are great at game planning individual matchups. The Broncos #1 overall defense (fourth in PPG—18.5) will be put the test early and often against the schemes of Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, as well as the poise and pocket presence of Brady. Despite missing his top three targets at times, including Julian Edelman for 7 games, Brady posted one of his best offensive seasons. Throwing for 36 touchdowns (his most since 2011) and only 7 interceptions (his fewest since 2010), the QB New England to the tune of 29.1 PPG. That total trails only two teams and I’ll give you a hint—they’re both playing later on Sunday!

The Patriots will continue to rely on Brady, but they really don’t have much of a choice—their running game is abysmal. During the regular season New England ranked 30th in rushing, mustering a measly 87.8 YPG on the ground. They managed just 38 yards on 14 carries last weekend against the Chiefs. On the flip side, Denver allowed only 83.6 YPG rushing during the regular season and 85 yards over 19 carries against Pittsburgh (40 yards came on one play by Martavis Bryant). The Patriots might hand the ball off a few times to keep the defense honest, but they’ll probably abandon the run all together. But therein lies the rub—the Denver passing defense is also tops in the league. First in total passing yards against as well as passing YPG against. Something’s gotta give and Sunday we’ll find out what.

Does Peyton have enough in the Tank? Do Brady and Belichick have the winning game plan? I’m not super confident about the pick, but I do think the Patriots squeak this one out, 20-17.

#2 Cardinals at #1 Panthers (-3)

Snow is expected to fall throughout the day Saturday, but game time on Sunday looks clear. It’s a matchup between the top two offenses in the league.

The Cardinals were probably on a few preseason Super Bowl ballots, but the same is not likely said for the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers were given 60-1 Super Bowl odds prior to the season, but that was only behind great teams like the Giants, Rams, Bills, Falcons, Saints, Chargers, Lions, Dolphins, Ravens, Cowboys, Eagles, and Colts, so I guess it’s understandable. However, that hasn’t stopped them from having the highest scoring offense in the NFL (31.3 PPG) and an equally talented defense (19.3 PPG allowed). The offense isn’t all Cam Newton, though he did account for 45 total touchdowns. Jonathan Stewart had a very nice year for a guy whose got a lot of miles on his legs. Stewart finished in the top 10 in rushing averaging 4.1 YPC, totaling 989 yards in 13 games. Not too shabby for a guy just two months shy of his 29th birthday.

While the Panthers may be a little top heavy on offense, the Cardinals are just loaded with talent. Wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown caught for over 1,000 yards a piece. The two of them plus Michael Floyd totaled over 220 receptions. The top three rushers on their team put together more than 1,600 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns, and another four receiving. After losing lead back Chris Johnson for the season due to a broken leg, rookie RB David Johnson stepped in and kept the ball rolling. All of this backed by 36-year old Carson Palmer having an MVP-type season and certainly his own personal best. Palmer threw for the most yardage (4,671), the most touchdowns (35), and the fewest interception (11) of his career for a single season. He’s bounced back from the injury last year and really flourished in head coach Bruce Arians offense. I wonder if the Colts wished they had hung on to Arians instead of Chuck Pagano.

There is so much to like on offense for both of these teams, it really is easy to forget that both of these clubs had top-ten defenses as well! Carolina and Arizona finished sixth and seventh, respectively, in PPG allowed. The two also finished sixth and fifth, respectively, in YPG allowed. When you look at the individual leaders in total tackles, interceptions, and sacks you’ll see “ARI” and “CAR” peppered throughout each list. Names like Tyrann Mathieu, Josh Norman, Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly, and Deone Bucannon pop up again and again. It’s no wonder that both teams have a combined seven defensive Pro Bowlers on their rosters and another 10 on offense.


These two teams are the best of the best in the NFC, maybe even the top two teams in all of football, so this is definitely a matchup you should not miss. Even though both offenses are so high-powered and both defenses are so gritty, tough, and hard-hitting I find it pretty difficult to pick one over the other. In the end I think the Cardinals have the better shot at making the big plays on offense and preventing them on defense. I think this game ends up being a shootout and Arizona wins 28-24.

There you have it Ladies & Gents, Boys & Girls. I’m predicting a Super Bowl 50 matchup of the Arizona Cardinals and the New England Patriots. How about you? Let me know down in the comments section who you think will be headed to the big game! Until then enjoy the football, I’ll see you two weeks!

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