Dryden’s Den-The NFL’s Championship Sunday
The best day in pro football is Championship Sunday. This season’s version should be great with two epic match-ups. In the AFC it will be a battle of old school quarterbacks as perennial rivals Tom Brady and Peyton Manning square off once again. In the NFC, new school quarterbacks will face off as the Niner sand Seahawks renew their bitter rivalry for the third time this season. In summary, the perfect match-ups for hardcore NFL fans.
Last Week: 4-0 Playoffs: 6-2
New England at Denver: Sunday 3 p.m. CBS- The Broncos and the Patriots certainly have their own history but all of that is overshadowed by the epic showdowns between Brady and Manning. The two aging legends are nearing the end in what could be their last chance at another championship. Their battles have been extraordinary and this contest should be no different.
The two teams met earlier this season in a game that saw the Patriots rally to win from a 24 point deficit in a game impacted by the elements. Denver will have advantages against the New England secondary and line backing corps with their excellent wide outs and young tight end Julius Thomas. The play action game should be effective with a healthy dose of Montee Ball and KnowshonMoreno. Former Patriot Wes Welker will be crucial in third down situations.
In their victory over San Diego, the Denver defensive was disruptive making several plays in the back field and harassing the quarterback. Shaun Phillips will need to be big against the Patriots running game and of course Brady. Their secondary is banged up thus they may be forced to play more base defense which is always dangerous against the caliber of Brady.
The Patriots were outstanding in their victory over Indianapolis. They dominated the time of possession behind punishing runner LeGarrette Blount. Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels will look to feature the running game once again with Blount and Stevan Ridley. If they can be effective with the run, Tom Brady should also have success down the field with play action passes. Expect Danny Amendola and especially Julian Edelman to be effective in short crossing routes. On defense, Bill Belichick knows Manning very well and in the past has been able to devise schemes to frustrate the future Hall-of-Famer. With that said expect plenty of pressure especially with Chandler Jones. Jamie Collins will also be a crucial piece in pass coverage.
Peyton Manning has a career playoff record of 10-11 while Tom Brady is much better at 18-7, however, while Brady and the Patriots have been consistent, the dynasty was ended long ago. In fact, in his last eight playoff games Brady is 4-4 with his last championship coming in 2004. The point is both veteran signal callers have a lot to prove with the end of their brilliant careers coming in the near future. Fans will be in for a treat once again with Manning and his mates getting the upper hand as they move on to Super Bowl XLVIII. DEN 31 NE 27
San Francisco at Seattle: Sunday 6:30 p.m. Fox- Two teams built in similar fashion from the same division led by coaches who were bitter rivals in the college ranks, it doesn’t get much better than that. Pete Carroll quickly built a physically imposing team that tries to bully opponents on both sides of the ball. Jim Harbaugh’s defending NFC Champion 49ers play the same brand of bruising football. The Niners are on a roll as they look to return to the Super Bowl to avenge a bitter loss last season.
San Francisco was impressive in their victory in Carolina. They came in and slapped the Panthers in the mouth and ran rough shod over Cam Newton. The Niner linebackers were everywhere imposing their will. On offense, Colin Kaepernick continues to impress. He made big plays with his arm and his feet. Savvy veteran Anquan Boldin not only put up big stats but he set the tone with tough physical catches while accumulating 136 yards. Kaepernick will have to play smart and quick against the tough Seahawks defense. It will be critical to get into formations quickly to avoid the boisterous Seattle crowd. Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis must be at their best to have success against the Seahawk defense.
The Niner defense will have to limit runs by Marshawn Lynch and explosive plays by Russell Wilson. They will likely be up to the task.
Seattle dominated the Saints once again with another solid defensive performance and tough running by Lynch. Wilson and the passing offense were not asked to do much but to defeat the Niners they will have to elevate their game. Lynch will be critical against the aggressive San Francisco front to get in to manageable third down situations. Their fantastic secondary with Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman must bring their “A” games against Crabtree and Davis. The pass rush of Bruce Irvin and Cliff Avril will have to be disciplined to preserve containment against the athletic Kaepernick. The heavy interior defensive line should be able to stuff Frank Gore.
In their regular season meetings both quarterbacks were held in check. Expect more of the same with points at a premium. Composure will be critical between two of the league’s most talkative teams and of course turnovers will be crucial. Third down conversions may decide the game with the mobility of both quarterbacks difficult to contain in short yardage. In a tight defensive game between rivals , scruples will play a big part as will scoring touchdowns instead of field goals. The Seahawks have a huge home field advantage which will certainly play a part. In an exciting old school smash mouth game, the home field plus a dominating defensive performance sends the Seahawks to the Super Bowl. SEA 23 SF 17
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