And suddenly, only four teams remain. The race to Super Bowl 50 finishes this Sunday as the overall favorites the New England Patriots are out for payback against the Denver Broncos, while Super Cam is hoping his Carolina Panthers can outrun a desert team in the Arizona Cardinals.
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
It’s the end of one of the most compelling rivalries in the NFL this Sunday, as two old warriors step out onto Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The Patriots love the playoffs, and so does Tom Brady, as he proved in the dismantling of Kansas City last week. In the game against the Chiefs, Brady would take a snap and have the ball passed within two seconds. That’s the quickest average any NFL QB has thrown in the last three seasons. Brady is 2-6 in Denver but has an exceptional playoff record. He leads the head to head overall.
But Peyton has won the last two meetings in the playoffs, including the AFC Championship game in 2014 in the very same venue as the game on Sunday. It’s likely to be the last time we see these two on opposite sides, as rumors of retirement surround the 39-year old Manning. Last week in his first start since week 9 against Pittsburgh, Manning completed 21 passes for 12 1st downs. He relied heavily on C.J Anderson for getting the Broncos up the field, which worked.
The Broncos defence finished number 1 in the league for the first time ever. It also finished No. 1 in pass defense, No. 1 in sacks, No. 3 in run defense and No. 4 in scoring defense, and they scored five touchdowns on defense. They need to be quick to get to Brady, who was sacked 40 times in the regular season. How do they get to a quarterback within two seconds? It’ll all come down to disrupting his targets
In the loss against in Week 12, Brady threw for 288 yards and three touchdown passes. He went down to a sack three times. The Broncos played a lot of man coverage in the secondary. Doing the same again is risky, particularly after Rob Gronkowski shoved off Aqib Talib with ease for his touchdown. Julian Edelman is Brady’s favorite target when the two have played together this season.
- The Patriots are 10-0, including last Saturday’s win over the Chiefs, when Edelman plays this season, and 3-4 when he doesn’t
- These are the two oldest starting quarterbacks in the NFL today
- Denver lead the overall head to head record and ended the Pats unbeaten season hopes in Week 12
Defeat for the Broncos and it’s almost certain it’ll be the last time we see Peyton start a game. They are to win and send him to his fourth Super Bowl. Bill Belichick does not have room for sentiment though. His Patriots are to avenge the loss and take their ninth conference championships which would be their sixth since 2000. In terms of touchdown scorers, look to Gronk, Edelman, Anderson and Demaryius Thomas
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers
It’s a little more straightforward in the NFC game. Cam Newton’s likable Panthers against the team that went under the radar into the playoffs, the Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals were given an almighty shock by another Hail Mary from Aaron Rodgers in the divisional match up last Sunday. A controversial coin toss gave them the ball in over time, and it was simple from there as Carson Palmer picked out Larry Fitzgerald to gain yards, and then handed off for the victory. The key to this game is how they react to the close scare.
The Cardinals hit their stride in the second half. Tony Jefferson tackles eight times while Dwight Freeney managed to get to Aaron Rodgers again. They were tested far more than the league game against the Packers, but Palmer when put under pressure showed a few nerves, throwing two interceptions. Despite doing well to spin around a GB block and find Fitzgerald, it’s more a question of how much space the WR was given. Forced to throw twice more in a must win situation, will Palmer do so well?
The Cardinals led the league in total offence in 2015, but they’re coming up against the franchise that were second in rushing offence, with Newton himself rushing for 10 touchdowns. The one blot on their copy in 2015 against the Atlanta Falcons was quickly erased by wins against the Buccaneers and then a victory over Seattle in the playoffs last week. After shell shocking Pete Carroll’s side early, the Panthers took their foot off the gas slightly, allowing a 31 point lead to be closed to just seven. They did manage to put their foot on the throat of Russel; Wilson’s offense and close out the win. Newton looked to Greg Olsen more than any receiver in that game, and rushed himself for a touchdown to add to the two he handed off to Jonathan Stewart.
- Larry Fitzgerald has been averaging 11.1 yards per reception
- Ted Ginn has 10 touchdowns for the Panthers, equalling Newton
- Andre Ellington’s longest run has been 63 yards, nineteen more than Johnathan Stewart
We’re tipping a Panthers win in a fantastic game of football, backing up the thriller we saw in the desert last week. Over 42 match points at with Fitzgerald, Stewart and Newton to score touchdowns. If the Cardinals can pull it out of the bag, they’ll do so by 1-13 points at