Conference Championship Sunday, or, the last day of the season with multiple football games!
I’m a Giants fan, so I am contractually obliged to love the years in which dark horse reaches a Conference Championship game, but there’s also something fun about a season like this year, when the top two teams in each conference advance all the way through. Think about the NBA right now — no upset in the playoff is going to be better or more fun than the possibility of having the Spurs and Warriors play in the Western Conference Finals. Sometimes you just root for the best teams to win because it’ll make for the best games, as evinced by this weekend’s matchups.
We’ve got Brady-Manning playing for the 17th time, in case you hadn’t found their rivalry tiresome yet. And that’s followed by a sneaky-fun coaching showdown between Bruce Arians and Ron Rivera. Oh right, and Cam Newton. Here’s hoping that the Pats/Broncos game comes down to a last-minute drive so that we can hear commentators exalt either Vintage Brady or Vintage Manning, and then that Arians and Rivera attempt to outsmart one another by never punting. It should be great.
Enjoy the games, and if you’re about to get crushed by the blizzard, make sure you have your priorities straight and find a place on Sunday to watch the football!
New England Patriots (-3) at Denver Broncos
I’ve seen and heard a lot of people complaining that this should be the later game on Sunday, and since it’s (likely!) the final installment of the Brady/Manning Bowl, I guess I understand the complaint. But here’s why it shouldn’t be the late game: it’s not even going to be close!
The Broncos stole a win at home against the Steelers last weekend, despite the fact that the Steelers played without their two best running backs and their best receiver (thanks again, Vontaze Burfict). The Patriots are more dangerous than the Steelers, full stop. They have a better quarterback, a better coach, comparably terrifying wide receivers, and a better defense than Pittsburgh. And Pittsburgh should have won!
The Patriots are going to another Super Bowl, and Peyton Manning will (likely!) end his career falling just short against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Same as it ever was.
The pick: Patriots 31, Broncos 17
Arizona Cardinals (+3) at Carolina Panthers
Carson Palmer looked pretty shaky last weekend, while playing indoors, at home, against an average Packers defense. His interception in the end zone was inexcusable.
This week he’s on the road, against a team that hasn’t lost at home since November 2014, in a stadium that’s about to get slammed with snow, and will be cold and windy on kickoff. Not great!
But … there’s something about this Cardinals team — Bruce Arians, probably — that makes me at least feel this game will be close. Seattle’s second half against Carolina showed Arians how to go about attacking Carolina, and if Arizona can do that while avoiding an embarrassingly awful first half, we could be in for a good game!
Ultimately I think Cam in Carolina is too much for Arizona. But don’t expect the Cards to go softly.
Panthers 35, Cardinals 31