The best day of the NFL season (even above the Super Bowl) is upon us. Two games, back-to-back featuring the two best teams both conferences have to offer. This year, none of the teams involved are all that surprising. Everyone in the preseason had the Broncos and Patriots being at least two of the three best teams in the AFC. In the NFC, many considered the Seahawks and 49ers top to bottom arguably the two best teams in the league let alone the conference. Regardless of who wins, it will lead to a very interesting Super Bowl matchup and should make for a great afternoon of games.
Divisional round results:
Straight up: 4-0, Playoffs: 5-3
Against the spread: 2-2, Playoffs: 5-3
Patriots 26 Broncos(-5.5) 23: It somehow once again all comes down to the Tom Brady/Peyton Manning storyline and these might be some of their best respective teams to date. Brady may not have all of his weapons in the passing game, but he has a very strong running attack and a defense that has played very well despite losing so many key players. The Patriots will most likely stick to the ground game that was so effective last week against the Colts. A strong running attack would tire the Broncos defense and most importantly, keep Peyton Manning and company off the field.
For that reason and injuries to the Broncos secondary, I see the Patriots pulling off a close one on the road. Not often do Brady and Bill Belichick get to go into a game as an underdog and they will relish this opportunity. Regardless, don’t take the Brady/Manning matchup for granted. These two future Hall of Famers rarely disappoint and as fans don’t know how many of these games we have left.
49ers 17 Seahawks (-3.5) 20: It’s very early to say, but there’s a chance that Colin Kaepernick/Russell Wilson could be this generations Manning/Brady matchup. It’s scary to think, but this 49ers team may be better than the one that lost in the Super Bowl last year. Kaepernick has gained more experience, Michael Crabtree is now healthy to go along with Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin who just seems to always come up big in the playoffs. On defense, they continue to be stout both against the pass and in stopping the run. One player in particular who doesn’t get much attention that has been fantastic is linebacker Ahmad Brooks. Playing in the shadow of Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman would do that, but Brooks has 4.5 sacks this postseason.
The Seahawks didn’t play great last week, but were good enough to pull out the win at home. Wilson wasn’t able to get much going in the passing game and for that reason rode Marshawn Lynch to victory. Lynch is one of the few backs in the league who can take a workload of 25 plus touches a game. Don’t look for that to change in this one. This was a very tough game to pick, but I’m going to have to go with the Seahawks. With their exotic defensive schemes, a fantastic secondary and a true homefield advantage, they have the tools to rattle Kaepernick in a game that should come down to field position and turnovers.