I think most people (myself included) believe these were the best teams in the National Football League this season, and that the NFC Championship game might actually be a better game than the Super Bowl.
The second game of the season will matchup two teams that were largely ignored at the beginning of the season. Over in the NFC we finally have some new blood, the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals will clash in Charlotte. One of those two quarterbacks, Arizona's Carson Palmer or Carolina's Cam Newton, will advance to play in his first Super Bowl. These two stellar quarterbacks have flown the flag for the AFC in a fantastic nine of the last 14 Super Bowls. He's proven to not only be one of the shutdown quarterbacks in the National Football League, but he literally has made quarterbacks avoid looking in his direction at times this season. That and the Bronco's looked completely off in the game against a beat up Pittsburgh team. Although Manning missed that game, his supporting cast performed well.
The Patriots were up by six, 27-21, with a minute left in the third quarter and forced the Colts to punt on a fourth and three, or so we thought.
In the first two weeks of the postseason, The Post's Paul Schwartz has been flawless, going 7-0-1 against the spread and 8-0 on Over/Unders for a phenomenal 15-0-1 record, earning his partisans piles of dead presidents.
But the Broncos are where they are because of a suffocating defense that has been the NFL's best all season.
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I'll go with Patrick Chung for the Patriots. If this game was simply New England's Brady against Denver's Manning, it would be a laugher in the Pats' favor. This will be the best game of the playoffs, but I think Peyton Manning JUST edges off Brady, and goes to Super Bowl 50.
For the Patriots, their biggest challenge will be dealing with a fierce pass rush with a banged-up offensive line. We are approaching this with the right type of tempo and demeanor.
"They're different styles of defenses", he said, "but they're long, they're fast, they're athletic and they're tough". "I idolized the quarterbacks who have been in this position, and you dream about the opportunity". Pete Carroll blamed Jonathan Stewart's big run last weekend on Carolina's turf, and warned the Cardinals to change spikes to account for it. If the turf is as bad as Carroll claimed, it will be downright terrible after a weekend of bombardment by freezing rain and snow. The 13-year veteran is having a career season with 4,671 passing yards and 35 touchdowns.
Yet if Manning's receivers hold on to the ball and the Denver defense comes through with a takeaway or three, he could still manage his way to a win against the Panthers and in theory go out on top.