Christopher’s Picks: Conference Championship

Since the postseason began, I’ve reminded us all of its unpredictable nature. So naturally, this would be the year that we get nothing of the sort. Regardless of how you feel about the four teams still alive, the storylines (and TV ratings) of this week’s championship games couldn’t be any bigger.

In the AFC, we have yet another meeting between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. which is always a popular head-to-head matchup. The idea of them being on opposing sidelines for a 15th time has been discussed ad nauseam all week, so I won’t get into it here.

The real treat is in the NFC though, as we get the NFL’s best rivalry right now, San Francisco and Seattle. Seeing either team here is no surprise, but they’ve taken two very different paths (thanks to the NFL’s unfortunate playoff seeding). Seattle only needed one home win to get here and they got it by beating New Orleans. San Francisco on the other hand has beat two very tough teams on the road to get to this point.

Like many of the divisional round games, both the AFC and NFC Championship games are regular season rematches. An overtime Denver muff lost them the game at Foxboro earlier in the season. Seattle and San Francisco each split the season series at home, but San Francisco’s visit to Seattle was a 29-3 drubbing. None of these past matchups matter at this point of course, but the prior history between the teams should make for two excellent games.

I’ll get to who I want to see in the Super Bowl in a moment, but I first want to discuss which matchups I’d prefer to see, based on entertainment and competitive factors:

Denver-Seattle

This, in my mind, would be the perfect Super Bowl scenario because of its marquee matchup. Peyton Manning and the league’s best passing offense versus the league’s best secondary in Seattle.

New England-San Francisco

If we end up seeing either New England or San Francisco in New Jersey, I’d rather see them play one another. The Niners chase their sixth Super Bowl, while the Pats go for their fourth.

Denver-San Francisco

Sensing a little theme here? I want to see Denver against good defenses. Not that they have much of a choice, should they win.

New England-Seattle

Not that it wouldn’t be a good game (all four would), it’s just the one I have the least interest in seeing.

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Denver over New England

Like all of the other postseason meeting between these two quarterbacks, it will come down to who has the better supporting cast. On offense, it’s all Broncos with the receivers Manning has to throw to. On defense, I’d give the advantage to New England with impact players all over the field (Aqib Talib, Jamie Collins, Chandler Jones, etc.).

In order for them to win, they’ll need another big game on the ground from LaGarrette Blount, or whoever the hot hand ends up being today and I don’t see that happening again.

Should the Broncos get Knowshon Moreno involved, it will greatly increase their chances of winning though. With that in mind, I’m taking Denver. They come into today as the favorite for good reason and the only real argument I’ve heard all week against them is Peyton Manning’s (overrated) history in the playoffs. Not enough for me to pick new England. 

San Francisco over Seattle

A few notes about the first two meetings before I explain the pick:

  • The two combined for 32 points in their first meeting and 36 in their second. I’m expecting them to score around this many points again today.
  • Colin Kaepernick has not played well in Seattle thus far (two games): 32/64, 371 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT
  • Neither has Frank Gore: 15 rushes, 45 yards

The two keys for the Niners today will be to stop Marshawn Lynch and protect Colin Kaepernick. If they can keep Lynch from going off, their chances of winning increase greatly. Russell Wilson and the passing offense have struggled as of late and I don’t see them playing much better this week without the versatile Percy Harvin.

So holding the Seahawks to 14 points would be great, but can they score 17? That’s where protection for Kaepernick comes in. He’ll need it in order to deal with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor. I know that the odds are stacked against them today — they almost need everything to go right in order to win — but I’m picking the Niners to win in Seattle.

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