Taking a Stab at the Title Games

For those of you who are somewhat new to this blog (stumbling upon it in the last year), you might have been asking yourself, ‘what’s up with the head cheese?’ Here’s the thing, every year after the Pack’s last game, I take a little mental break. Let a week or so pass before I pick things up. It’s also the time of the year that I travel a lot for work, so, no more excuses.

By Monday I’ll post my thoughts on the Packers’ free agents, but for now I want to weigh in on what I think we’re in for this weekend, with two games providing endless storylines and a whole lot of anticipation.

Let’s start with Brady vs. Manning XIV in Denver. To me, the Patriots have been the Packers of the AFC, dealing with more than their share of devastating injuries. No they didn’t lose Brady, but all three levels of their defense lost their best player, the offense lost it’s top playmaker and they’ve had to dig deeper into the depth chart at some positions than the hole being dug in downtown Minneapolis right now.

That they’ve reached this spot is not monumental. The AFC was down this year, thanks to the dips by teams like the Steelers and the Super Bowl champion Ravens. It was hard for most of us to believe that teams like the Chiefs, Bengals and Colts were going to be January warriors. That left the Broncos and Patriots. And here they are.

This edition of Belichick’s group has morphed in recent weeks into a power running team. When Stevan Ridley fumbled away his chance and Shane Vereen couldn’t stay healthy, they turned to LaGarrette Blount the last games of the season. All he did was gain more than 280 yards rushing in those two games and score four times. We saw what he did against the Colts. The Broncos enter this game knowing they have to stop the run. If they don’t, Peyton stands on the sidelines and he can’t yell ‘Omaha!’ from the sidelines.

That said, look for the Patriots to exploit the Broncos’ defense through the air. The loss of cornerback Chris Harris cannot be overstated. Champ Bailey is running on fumes and Quentin Jammer is no longer Quentin Jammer. Brady will find mismatches and he will exploit them. Without a playmaking tight end, the Pats’ passing game is no longer electric. But Brady and his coordinator Josh McDaniels are savvy enough to find a way to move the ball through the air.

Needless to say, the Broncos’ hopes of delivering Peyton to his third Super Bowl rest on the arm and the nerves of Manning himself. I think his playoff record has been a bit overstated, I mean, he put his team in position last year and his secondary went brain dead. But make no mistake, Manning will feel the pressure of expectations.

He knows his time is running out. He’ll meet with doctors in a couple of months to see how his neck looks. Then the team will decide if it will pay him another $20 million to return in 2014. There’s no question, they’d be thrilled to write those checks, but if the prognosis is not good, this could be the end of the line for maybe the greatest QB ever.

And unless he can win two more games, he’d stare at a trophy case full of awards, but his brother would always wear more rings. I think Manning will play well on Sunday, well enough to win, but I think the Patriots are the grittier team, the tougher team up front on both sides of the ball. Brady’s won 10 of these 13 meetings. I think he gets it done again.

Patriots 30  Broncos 27

If the Packers couldn’t get here, this was the NFC’s dream matchup (OK, non-Packers will naturally disagree; I get that). The title game in the NFC is the polar opposite of the AFC’s. Instead of ‘Hall of Fame quarterbacks meet once again,’ we get: ‘elite, hard-nosed defenses square off for the third time.’ The Seahawks have gotten the better of this rivalry this season, dominating the Niners both times they played at Century Link.

Something tells me this one will be a little different. The Hawks’ air of invincibility at home evaporated with a week 16 loss to Arizona. Their offense has been sputtering along for the last month or so, with Russell Wilson looking less comfortable out their than we’re accustomed to seeing. Much of that can be pinned on an offensive line that has him running for his life. And when it comes to playmakers in the passing game, Seattle comes up short, considering Percy Harvin can’t be counted on to be that wildcard.

Both teams will try to pound it on the ground and let their defenses strut their stuff. This is a big spot for Colin Kaepernick, who understands what it’s like to play there and needs to play a whole lot better than his last two outings there. This time he has a healthy Michael Crabtree to go along with other physical receivers in Boldin and Davis. Seattle can take one or two of those guys away, but not all three. Can Kaepernick find the mismatches? That’s what this game will come down to.

My brain is leaning towards San Francisco this game, despite the mega home field advantage. The Niners are healthier than they’ve been all season and it feels like they’re going to be that rare team that loses the Super Bowl and returns the next year.

49ers 20  Seahawks 19

My preseason prediction was Seattle over Denver, so it hurts to go against that, but it feels like the road teams step up and deliver on what should be a historically great championship weekend. Anyone agree?

I’ll have much more on the title games, along with my partner Trent Tucker on “In the Zone,” Saturday  morning at 8 on KFAN and kfan.com.

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10 Responses to Taking a Stab at the Title Games

  1. charles says:

    Seahawks seem to just have a way to turn it up at home. Love the 9ers, but cant pick against them at home.

  2. Hoggster says:

    You have it half right. Belichek is a cantankerous but amazing coach, but there is too much offense on the Bronco side to keep up. With temps int he 50′s it is going to a big day for Manning. 38-30.

    You have it pretty much right on for the 49′ers. Not a Harbaugh fan, though I have two pair of pleated khakis myself….but I have them 23-14

  3. larry says:

    that is your 1st mistake HC, always stick with you gut and 1st choice, both home teams win, as i also said in your last post in march. have u watched the games against the niners dave, seattle o line has dominated them, lynnch has run wild and wilson will make enough plays to win, and does not turn the ball over like kappy . manning will throw for 4 and 360. sunday, and the weather is the key, 45 and not much wind. harrris is out for denver, so brady will get his too,but they will not hang with them at home. seattle 23- 17, denver 37- 28. sigh SHIELDS, TT now. go pack

  4. lynndickeyfan says:

    Well… Larry just about nailed it. I couldn’t be happier with today’s results. I’ve gone back and forth between who will win the Super bowl, but I’ve made my decision after the Seattle game. Denver wins. Neither QB impressed me much today. I would put the Denver D right up there with Seattle and the 49rs, so I’m going Denver.

  5. larry says:

    thanks LDF, yea one point off, hit the score on seattle and said denver would win by 9. defense played better then I thought they would. and manning had some long drives that ate up clock. as the great forrest gump once said, , that’s all I’m going to say about that.Voice, remember I told u seattle would be in the bowl back in march, when they got those 2 d lineman, avril and bennet, then they got harvin, and he has been hurt, he will play in the game though u know that and u said not so fast Larry. YOU need players not just a qb to win now, TT needs to pick up a couple of FA. Can’t wait to hear the thoughts of my man the Voice. THC will go with his gut from now on I bet. Brady looked awful, I hope this stops this damn Brady over Manning crap, he won more super bowls cause he had better teams and defense. 5 mvp’s enough said. I am waiting on weather forecast before I predict score, it will make a big difference. sign Shields and Byrd, that is all I want from TT. GO PACK

  6. Bill, the voice of reason says:

    What can I say, Larry, you da man!!! Nice going on hitting the equivalent of a hole-in-one for the NFC game. Should be a good Super Bowl – I’ll make my traditional game day home-made pizza and kick back for this one. Don’t have any real rooting interest for this one, but I’ll be pulling for Denver – don’t have any real reason for it…just because. After the game, we’ll have plenty of discussions about what TT should and shouldn’t do, and I’m looking forward to that. It’s too early to say anything about that beyond targeting positions, so let’s enjoy the game and have some fun.

  7. larry says:

    well I guess Dave is not going to put up his prediction on super bowl. I know you said seattle on kfan though. I said it will come down to wind and how the refs call the holding in secondaries. looks like weather will be ok, not great with 10-15 mph wind. but I see manning picking them apart. Shaun Phillips is guy that no one is talking about. could have big game. I want seattle to win. but denver will win 31-27

  8. larry says:

    wow! sure wrong on that one. i was happy seattle won, but sure was a horrible game to watch. 12 and the pack would at least given them a game. now it\’s draft time.

  9. Bill, the voice of reason says:

    Like most everyone here, as they say, I didn\’t have a horse in this race, so my interest was more of a casual one in the grand scheme. And having said that, I would have lost big time based on the outcome – I don\’t think anyone saw that coming. But I kept watching anyway for the \”wreck on the highway\” aspect just to see if Denver could make it interesting, and of course, for the commercials. So now Seattle has their Lombardi, and the \”dynasty\” word is starting to get kicked around. Simply based on the way the league is put together, the odds against Seattle repeating are way up there. You gotta like their \”D\”, and if Harvin stays healthy for 16 outings, who knows? But anything can happen, and usually does, so we shall see. I\’m somewhat interested in which franchise will empty the bank when the free agency free-for-all starts, and who we can all collectively laugh at when they do…but I\’ll save that for March and April.

  10. Bill, the voice of reason says:

    All right…since it\’s been so quiet around here of late, and in honor of Dan Cole starting his Preposterous Statement Tournament, I\’ll throw this one out there and let you guys judge the merit of it. Here goes…\”The Denver Broncos will NOT be a playoff team for the 2014 season.\”

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