We are down to the nitty gritty. It’s all about who wants it more and who will lay it all out on the ground. Who is hungry and wants to eat? Football will get no better than this. A match-up between two of the greatest quarterbacks ever or that I have seen in my lifetime. Then the battle between two teams that have been relentless this season.
Denver Broncos 23 – New England Patriots 21
The match up of all match ups, Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning. Is it the teacher vs. the student or just two great players going head to head. This match up is equivalent to Magic Johnson vs. Bird or Magic vs. Micheal Jordan. Who will have the say so father time or the golden child? Football doesn’t get better than this. Brady is still producing at a high level and Manning isn’t what he used to be, but don’t let the hype fool you. Manning only had nine drop, yes I said nine drops in the win against the Steelers last week. The Broncos beat the Patriots earlier this season, but that was with Brock Osweiler at quarterback, and the Patriots were really banged up in that one.
Denver ran for 176 yards that day. If the Broncos want to win again they are going to have to pound the ball and run hard. The running game has been a problem for the Patriots all season. The New England passing game plays fast with quick throws. That helps negate the pass rush but I think Denver has the man-cover players to take away the quick throws. The Patriots will still move the ball, but it will be a late turnover that changes this one. It’s a tight one all the way, but in the end the Broncos will pull off the upset again.
Arizona Cardinals 26 – Carolina Panthers 23
This was a hard one for me to pick because both teams are so good. They met in the playoffs last year, but that game featured Ryan Lindley at quarterback for Arizona, a player who was terrible that day. Carson Palmer and the passing game of Arizona are as good as any in the league. Coach Bruce Arians is an aggressive play-caller who won’t back down. The Carolina defense was second in the league in yards per pass attempt, but Arizona was first in yards per attempt throwing it. Something will have to give. The key here will be the pressure from Carolina. They can rush from the inside really well, but they don’t have a dominant edge rusher. That will be a problem against Palmer he isn’t a Newton when it comes to running but he is very mobile. For Carolina, look for them to try and pound the football. The Cardinals had some issues with the Green Bay running game last week, and Carolina’s zone-read scheme can present some real problems. The Carolina line has had a good year, and Cam Newton is a good runner. He’s also improved greatly as a passer. But I think Palmer will be the one to make a late play in the passing game to set up Arizona for the winning points. This is his time Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are hungry. The Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl.