Conference Championship Game Picks (Desert Dreams Edition)
Before I begin breaking down the games this week, I have three words for all of you...
DEZ CAUGHT IT.
Now I feel better and we can continue.
Championship Sunday is upon us, and it's time to find out who gets to play in that game that will merely be just a distraction from Katy Perry shaking all of her naughty bits at us during her halftime performance...and you and I both know she'll do that, too.
So without further ado...let's break these games down and see who will probably NOT be going to Glendale, since I have picked them to win this week.
Please see last week's record below for an explanation.
And let's get started.
Last week: 0-4
NFC Championship Game: Green Bay Packers (13-4) @ Seattle Seahawks (13-4), Sunday, January 18, 3:05 (2:05 Central), CenturyLink Field, Seattle
Line: Seahawks by 7.5
The NFC title game returns to Seattle for the second consecutive year, and will see the Packers and Seahawks rematch a game that was the very first regular season game played this year, a 36-16 Seattle win on the opening Thursday when the defending champs raised their banner.
These two teams were the top two teams in the NFC, seeding-wise, but if history in the form of that season opener tells us anything, Green Bay doesn't have much of a chance here, particularly with an injured Aaron Rodgers.
Although, after his performance in the second half of last week's 26-21 home win over the Cowboys, I'm not entirely sure he's as hurt as everyone claimed he was going into that game.
But, whether he is or not, the Seahawks will have to repeat the performance they had up front against the Packers in the earlier meeting, because, injured or not, Rodgers' second-half heroics against Dallas allowed a Packers team that was badly outplayed for most of the game to make enough plays for that disputed catch to matter in the end.
The Seahawks have gotten to this point on the heels of a seven-game winning streak led by the usual suspects of their "Legion of Boom" defense, but the offense, led by Russell Wilson, has also more than held its own at times during this winning streak, including putting up 31 points in last week's 31-17 home win over the Panthers.
As much as the match-up between Rodgers and the Seahawk secondary is going to get most of the press, I believe the running backs in this game, Marshawn Lynch and Eddie Lacy, will play a big part, particularly on the Seahawks' side, as the Cowboys were able to gash the Green Bay defense all afternoon last Sunday in Green Bay, and with a power back like Lynch, I expect the Seahawks will be able to do the same thing to the Packers.
What was lost in the madness at the end of the game in Green Bay last week was how much the Cowboys were able to shut down the Packers' offense, and in particular, the running game for the better part of three quarters, and Lacy will have to get loose early to take some of the pressure off of a gimpy Rodgers to deliver in this one.
I would like to make quick mention of a thing I pointed out on Monday Morning Huddle this week (and for those of you that heard me on it...I'm sorry), and that is that I think the Packers can exploit a potential weakness in the Seahawk secondary by utilizing Davante Adams, who has really come on in his rookie season, as a weapon out of the third receiver spot.
Seattle advances to their third Super Bowl all-time, and second straight, with a win here, and would also have the chance to be the first team to repeat as champions since the Patriots a decade ago, while the Packers would advance to their sixth Super Bowl of all-time, and first since the 2010 season.
Prediction: Seattle 28, Green Bay 13
AFC Championship Game: Indianapolis Colts (13-5) @ New England Patriots (13-4), Sunday, January 18, 6:40/5:40 Central, Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts
Line: Patriots by 6.5
In Foxboro, the Patriots, making their fourth straight appearance in the AFC title game, will host the Colts in what will be the third AFC title game between these teams, and the second one hosted by New England.
This is the third time in that span of four straight appearances that the Pats are hosting the AFC title game, and this will be a rematch of a week 11 game won by New England, 42-20, at Lucas Oil Stadium earlier this year.
The Colts may be maturing into a serious contender right in front of our eyes, having gone through the Bengals at home two weeks ago 26-10 and then becoming the only road team to win on a usually chaotic divisional weekend by beating the Broncos, 24-13 in Denver a week ago.
Leading the charge for Indy, of course, is Andrew Luck, but even he would have to admit that without a repeat of the kind of game he got from his defense a week ago, that a win here is going to be hard to get.
The biggest difference, and the one most likely to sink the Colts' upset efforts, is that Tom Brady is still Tom Brady, which is to say he doesn't have a dead arm and a supposedly torn quad like Peyton Manning did/maybe didn't have a week ago when the Colts won in Denver.
But the Colts can win this game, and they can do it by using T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne to stretch the field, and by getting a decent running attack from anyone not named Trent Richardson, as well as getting as close to a repeat defensively of last week as possible,
For the Patriots, it really does seem as simple as feeding the ball to Rob Gronkowski as much as possible, and it will be interesting to see what the Colts do to try and at least minimize his damage, since I remain convinced that a completely 100% Gronk is unstoppable.
Something that is probably pretty low on the radar as far as storylines for this game go, but something to keep an eye on nonetheless, is the availability of Jonas Gray, who made a name for himself in the first meeting between these teams this year, but remains a question mark for this due to injury.
A win for the Patriots will put them in the Super Bowl for the eighth time, but the sixth time in the Brady/Belichick Era, though they are now in their tenth season since their last title, while the Colts would advance to their fifth Super Bowl of all-time, but only the third since moving to Indianapolis.
Prediction: New England 34, Indianapolis 24