And in this season that I have not enjoyed at all (I even missed the epic Cards-Packers game on Saturday), we’re down to the final four. Last week I once again went 3-for-4 in my picks (although I was just 2-for-4 against the spread). How do I feel about this weekend? Well, I’m about 99 percent sure of how one of these games will go … and I have no idea what’s going to happen in the other one. Let’s go with the sure thing—which just happens to be Sunday’s early game—first.
New England at Denver
I’ve written this a million times, and I will never, ever stop believing it: Tom Brady is this generation’s equivalent of Joe Montana, and Peyton Manning is this generation’s Dan Marino. One is a consummate winner; the other puts up gaudy stats but comes up short in the playoffs. (Note: I am not saying that Brady is as good as Montana, and frankly, I am very much NOT looking forward to the two weeks of Brady/Montana stories we’re going to get with the Super Bowl being in
San Francisco the Niners’ home stadium.) I will always, always, always pick Brady over Manning—especially this version of Manning, who is physically shot. It just feels right that Peyton should lose his final playoff game, at home, to his longtime rival, doesn’t it? I’m calling this one Patriots 26, Broncos 13.
Arizona at Carolina
In this game, on the other hand, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I think these are pretty clearly the two best teams in the NFL, and I’ve been stoked about the prospect of this matchup for weeks. Both teams have hard-hitting, aggressive defenses, and both have big-play capabilities on offense (the Cards through their passing game, the Panthers through their running game). Before the Division round, I felt pretty confident that Arizona was the better of these teams, thanks to all of their downfield weapons, but the Green Bay game shook me. Specifically, it reminded me that Carson Palmer has never gone this deep in the playoffs. Of course, neither has Cam Newton, but Newton played with confidence in the Panthers’ win over the Seabitches, while Palmer looked like the shaky, turnover-prone QB he was during his Raiders days, not the MVP candidate we saw this year. I still think Arizona is a better team from top to bottom, but I just have a feeling that Palmer is going to kill them with a big turnover at exactly the worst time. So, in what I’m pretty sure will be the game of the year, I’m taking the Panthers, in overtime, 33-27. Dab it, Cam.