Then there were four.
The Conference Championship games are set with the Denver Broncos facing the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers taking on the Arizona Cardinals.
Two matchups that differ in meaning.
In the AFC championship game, we have familiar faces playing each other for what could be the final time between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The two dinosaur QB’s are trending in opposite directions. Brady looks like he could play for another 3-5 years while Manning seems to be on a swan song. The record between the two in Conference Championship games is tied at two apiece with a trip to San Fran on the line.
On the other side, the NFC championship game carries more appeal and offers a fresh matchup. The Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals have never won a super bowl and look to get a crack at winning one this year. The conference game for the past five years have featured either the Green Bay Packers or the Seattle Seahawks. A different matchup like this offers intrigue. Two former Heisman winning Quarterbacks as well as former number one overall picks in Cam Newton and Carson Palmer lead the way. Who will come out number one in this matchup?
Patriots (12-4) def. Broncos (12-4)
The Broncos have a great defense. They’re the number one ranked defense in yards allowed and points per game. Their pass rush lead by Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware is elite and their secondary lead by Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr is very good. The Patriots offensive line is still mediocre so Brady may be tap dancing in the pocket all day in Denver with little to no rushing attack.
However like the Chiefs, Denver struggles to score points. The running game is inconsistent and their passing attack looks uninspired due to a combination of a less than stellar offensive line and a Peyton Manning who is a shell of his former self. The underrated Patriots front seven is going to go after Manning and do all they can to stop the run.
I see this game as a defensive battle but in the end, an offense which features Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman will score enough points to outlast an Emmanuel Sanders and Demariyus Thomas featured offense. Donald Trump’s best friend wins the rubber match against Peyton and heads to Super Bowl 50.
Panthers (15-1) def. Cardinals (13-3)
Carson Palmer and Cam Newton have both made strides this year in becoming elite in their position. So have head coaches Ron Rivera and Bruce Arians. Both had their hands full (more so Arizona) in the divisional round but this matchup should be entertaining.
Both defenses overall have been stout but each have flaws. With Arizona, their run defense got gashed last week against Green Bay. That does not bode well as Carolina holds the number two ranked rushing attack. On the flip side, Carolina’s secondary is very good but a glaring issue with the secondary is that their corners outside of the elite heel Josh Norman, do not scare many people. And is part of the reason why Carolina often give up a lot of leads to many competent offenses. Guess who ranks at the top of that list? Arizona. Although, both defenses have their share of stars with Norman, Kuechly, Short, Peterson, Campbell, and Bucannon, my feeling is that the decision making on offense will determine the games outcome.
As I would love to see future Hall of Fame wideout Larry Fitzgerald along with former Colts Bruce Arians, Dwight Freeney, and Jerod Powers win out. I just can’t trust Carson Palmer. Gunslinging QB’s can either be heroes or villains. It’s safe to say that Carson will be the Frieza/Lex Luthor villain to fans. I think Cam will find a way to make the right plays when he needs to (And he’ll have to because that team can and will give up leads). Carson on the other hand will make bad Bengal like decisions in critical situations.
Therefore, Cam Newton and the Panthers shall dab their way to meet with New England in Super Bowl 50. While the Cincinnati playoff square consisting of Head Coaches Mike Zimmer, Jay Gruden, Marvin Lewis, and QB Carson Palmer is complete.
*Note; Divisional Round picks were skipped due to topic being discussed on debut podcast.
Welcome to the AD report.