The NFL’s version of the Final Four is upon us and should be a good one, featuring three #1 overall picks, two Heisman winners, and the greatest quarterback of all time. Here is my preview and predictions for the games on Sunday.
January 24, 3:05 PM: #2 New England Patriots @ #1 Denver Broncos (+3)
Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning has truly been one of the most historic rivalrys the NFL has ever seen. These quarterbacks have faced off against each other at least once every single year that they have both been healthy. They always making the playoffs, breaking records, and finding a way to win as their teams have evolved over the years. The only difference separating these two is playoff performance. Tom Brady is the greatest postseason quarterback of all-time, with an NFL record 22 playoff wins and a record-tying 3 Super Bowl MVPs in 4 Super Bowl wins. On the other hand, Peyton Manning has gone one and done nine times, eight of which his team was favored, and has an NFL record 13 playoff losses. The only things giving Peyton Manning a chance in this game is playing at home, the Broncos #1 defense, and a solid running game. When these two met in November, the Patriots were decimated by injuries and still took the Broncos to overtime in Denver. This time around, the Patriots have the far superior offense and the defense is good enough to slow the Broncos offense and force them to pass the ball, which will only help New England more. I like the Patriots to advance to Super Bowl 50, 23-17.
January 24, 6:40 PM: #2 Arizona Cardinals @ #1 Carolina Panthers (-3)
MVP candidates square off in a rematch of last year’s NFC wild card game as Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals travel east to face off against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Both teams boast strong defenses, but this game also features the #1 and #2 offenses in the league in terms of scoring. After a season-ending injury to star receiver Kelvin Benjamin and a slow start for the Panthers offense, Cam Newton caught fire in the second half the Panthers rolled to a 15-1 season and took down two-time defending NFC champion Seattle in the divisional round. Meanwhile, Larry Fitzgerald and Cardinals offense have thrived under a healthy Carson Palmer and the emergence of rookie running back David Johnson. Although I think Ron Rivera is a great coach for Carolina, and I think Bruce Arians has the edge in this coaching matchup. With the veteran presence of Palmer and Fitzgerald, and a defense that has been solid all year long, I think the Cardinals can make enough big plays on offense and frustrate Newton on defense to pull off the upset. Arizona wins 24-21.
Let me know who you think will advance to Super Bowl 50 in the comments down below.