The usual suspects. This what we thought. Strangely, this really *is* how most of us in the Football realm thought these Championships would play out. In pre-season, mopst everyone in NFL punditry expected the Seahawks against either the 'Niners or the Packers. Then, Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews got hurt. In pre-season, most everyone in NFL punditry expected the Broncos against either the Patriots, the Bengals, the Dolphins, the Colts or the Texans. To be honest, I expected the Broncos against either the Texans or the Chiefs. The Texans collapsed about week 2, and the Chiefs were victims of the second largest upset in playoff history. To those degrees of expectation, it isn't much of a surprise that we have the games we have.
What we have is clearly the very best against the very best in both conferences. Chuck Pagano (and most other coaches) don't seem to yet realize just how clever Darth Belichick is. Andrew Luck needs a bit of seasoning to his competive fire, as does Cam Newton. The Panthers have staked a claim to dominance, but they fell to a team that already knows how dominant they can be. New Orleans will be back, but weather and a narrow window for Brees should have them concerned. If there is one team you have to give props to, it is San Diego. They did what few said they could do, but when push came to shove, the Broncos closed a game with drive and determination.
As a side note, the playoff team that should be alarmed about their chances next year would be the Cincinnati Bengals. They have a real problem at quarterback, and they've lost their Offensive Coordinator to the Lower Patomic Indigenous Peoples of a Particularly Ruddy Hue. They have lost their Defensive Coordinator to the Vikings. This does not bode well.
I've written many times that to me the real championships are earned at the conference level. If I get the chance, and I likely will, to post my views of the Super Dooper Bowl, I will explain why I think this weekend is the ultimate in all of professional football. That's later. So on with the picks.
San Francisco 49ers (5) at Seattle Seahawks (1)
I was going to point out last week for the Bronco game how difficult it is facing a team in the playoffs that one has already met twice in the regular season. That is with complete disregard for record in those earlier games. This game is no different and probably hightened in anxiety because of the placement of those games. Early season, Seattle dominated in the Northwest. Later season, the 'Niners imposed their will in the bay area. Also further late season, Arizona dominated Seattle with the caterwaul of the 12th man, and barely lost to a dominant 'Niner team - in Pheonix.
Against the Panthers, the 49ers looked to be the most complete team in football. Early on the season, Ron Jaworski posited that Colin Keapernick could be the best quarterback in the history of the game. Stop laughing. His call showed that footbal punditry is every bit as succeptable to BS as any other, since that's all folk talked about for weeks. He had this much going for his argument: Kaepernick is probably the best pistol, option, run and gun quarterback playing the game today. With that defense, the 'Niners have the offensive edge, just by time-of-possession. The Seahawks remain the most penalozed team in the game, and that will serve Kaepernick.
The narratives are written. Gore v. Lynch. Boldin, Crabtree, Davis v. the Legion Of Doom. Stanford v. USC. Pete Carroll has built an amazing team and the Seahawks have the spirit to win it all. They are more athletic. They are more skilled position by position. They have the fans on their side. (Just for the record, it is a total fucking dick move to not allow ticket sales in California.) None of that matters. The 49ers are the more solid team, and they will win this game.
San Francisco - 20, Seattle - 17
New England Patriots (2) at Denver Broncos (1)
You have to be impressed at how the Patriots have branded themselves as a 'power running team'. They've actually been so good at that that they even pretend that they've always been a power running team. Such are the mind games of Darth Belichick. No, no they haven't. What Bill wants is for Del Rio to stack the box and let Brady throw at will pairing Edelman against Quinton Jammer. Jack Del Rio is not quite that stupid.
LaGarette Blount is a beast, and I expect that he will get his share of yards. But unlike the game against the Colts, the Broncos have proven over the last several weeks that they can rush the qb and still stop the run. Can New England stop the Denver short pass and run option? That's the question. Don't get me wrong, I know that Belichick and Brady can pull some amazing shit out of their asses. I don't think they can cover the Denver short pass game, and still stop Knowshon Moreno from running. Expect big things from Montee Ball.
New England 24, Denver -30