We have arrived at the NFL version of the Final Four. Unlike the opening weekend of the playoffs, all the favorites advanced to this round. I can make a case for each of the four remaining teams to advance to the Super Bowl. However I can only lay claim to two. Here is who I see celebrating a conference championship.
New England over Denver
This is being hyped as another in that long running television series Brady vs. Manning. I look at it as Manning vs. Belichick. In the Broncos’ quarterback, we have one of the great minds to ever play the position. The past month and half is probably as good example as any. Manning does not have the arm strength and the other physical tools he once possessed yet he is still finding ways to win games in a chicken wire and spit fashion. Manning knows his limitations but still has the mental skills to identify a weakness in an opposing defense and calling the correct play that will exploit that defense. That was what was on display during Denver’s winning drive against Pittsburgh.
The issue for Manning is Belichick is also one of the greatest football minds the game has ever seen. Belichick made his reputation on defense. The foundation of his success is utilizing a variety of schemes and looks that leads to uncertainty by opposing offenses which often leads to mistakes by opposing offenses. My take is that Belichick will be able to take full advantage of Manning’s physical limitations as the Patriots return to the Super Bowl.
Carolina over Arizona
The Cardinals had the top ranked offense in the NFL during the regular season as quarterback Carson Palmer found the Fountain of Youth in the Arizona desert. Carolina’s offense was not too shabby either as the Panthers were ranked 11th.
The defensive are similar as well. The Cardinals ranked fifth and the Panthers sixth.
I could go with the fact that Arizona coach Bruce Arians has been a member of championship teams when he was an assistant during the Steelers two most recent titles. However, my lean is with Cam Newton. I look for the Panthers quarterback’s mobility to be the determining factor