The staff of WTBU Sports are back this week to once again pick the games of this weekend’s NFL Playoff action. This week there are two games in the conference finals.
This week’s panel are assistant sports directors Marisa Ingemi, Dan Shulman, and Alex Greenberg.
New England vs Denver
Ingemi: New England
The one thing I fear in this game is that the Patriots do not play well in Denver. Other than that, New England has proven to be one of the best teams in football, and Peyton Manning does not intimidate me. If Denver is able to run the ball, it will open up their pass game, so the Patriots have to key in on CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman.
Shulman: New England
The last time the two teams played was back in late November, where the Broncos, aided by the referees, beat the Patriots in overtime in the midst of a snowstorm. However, the Patriots were without Julian Edelman, lost Rob Gronkowski to injury in a crucial stage of the game, and the absence of linebacker Dont’a Hightower in the second half left a void in the middle which the Broncos exploited.
Tom Brady is 2-6 all-time in Denver, and his last three games have all resulted in losses. There is one similarity in all-three of those games…Brady was missing one very important offensive weapon. With full health on offense, and Hightower stopping the run, the Patriots should roll.
Not to mention the Pats are 11-0 with Edelman starting this season, and the fact that Peyton Manning has become more predictable than the plot of “22 Jump Street”. And it doesn’t even matter that the Broncos are undefeated under this weekend’s referee Ed Hochuli.
The Revenge Tour continues this weekend in Denver, and in what could be the final act of the Brady-Manning Saga, not even steroids will help the beleaguered Broncos quarterback on Sunday.
Greenberg: New England
It’s tough for me to approach this game without any bias, but if I did I think I would still pick the Patriots. At this point in the Brady-Manning rivalry, Tom Brady is a lot better than Manning. Manning has not really done much since retaking the starting job, but the media hype is still there. The Patriots are a better coached team, especially on defense, and they will find ways to disrupt Manning. This could be another 3 INT performance from the Pats D, like they did against Manning so long ago in the 2003 AFC Championship Game. Ty Law won’t be picking any off, but Malcolm Butler and Devon McCourty probably will.
Carolina vs Arizona
I am done overlooking Carolina. I looked at their schedule and discounted a 15-1 record, however, most teams in this league had bunnh schedules. It’s a mediocre league. However, in this case, I feel Arizona is a deeper team and Carson Palmer is the better quarterback. It will be close, but this is a Cardinals win.
The Cardinals are flying high this season, especially after beating a gritty Packers team in one of the most fantastic postseason games in NFL history. The Panthers are 16-1 and clearly the best team in the league. It’s not about who was better in the past, or who the best team is on paper. It’s about being the best on Sunday.
Carson Palmer picked up his first playoff win of his career last weekend, and will look to get the Cardinals back to the Super Bowl. Arizona put in a complete, full-game effort last weekend while the Panther came out guns-blazing before nodding off in the second half. Cam Newton mustered just 161 passing yards, going 16/22 and throwing one touchdown.
The Panthers had no answer for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks passing game, as Jermaine Kearse caught 11 passes for 110 yards. In all, Wilson threw for 366 yards and rushed for 32 against a supposedly solid Panthers defense.
Although Carson Palmer isn’t as mobile, the receivers for Arizona are just as good as Seattle’s. Paired with a strong running game, the Cardinals may be just a little too much for Carolina to handle, taking what will likely be a close game and heading to the Super Bowl.
I think this will actually be a tighter game than the Patriots-Broncos game. Carson Palmer has done well this year, but in the past few weeks he has not been at his absolute best. Cam Newton has. Newton has turned himself into, probably, the best quarterback in the league. He’ll will the Panthers offense to victory, while the Panthers defense is more than capable of handling things on their end. The Cardinals defense is also a solid unit, so they’ll keep it close. But I like Cam and Kuechly in this one.