And then there were 4. Both of us went perfect during last week’s Divisional Round. I sit at 7-1 for the playoffs. Jamie is at 5-3 (why, Blair Walsh, why?).
The conference championship games aren’t without a little drama. Brady vs. Manning. The Patriots trying to get to back-to-back Super Bowls. Cam Newton and Carson Palmer vying to get their first title. This weekend has it all.
Our official picks for what teams will be playing in the Super Bowl 50 are below. As always, check in with us on Twitter throughout the weekend @3DownConversion.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP – Patriots (13-4) vs. Broncos (13-4)
Alex: All signs point to Brady prevailing here. When these two teams played in late November, Brady was without Edelman, Amendola, and New England was missing a lot of pieces on defense. Most of those guys return this week. The x-factor here isn’t Peyton Manning. It’s the Denver defense. It was one of the best all season and has the kind of pass rush that could give Brady fits. if that holds up, then Peyton Manning can do just enough to get back to another Super Bowl. Nonethless, I’m going with convention and rolling with the team picked to get to the Super Bowl at the beginning of the season. Patriots 27, Broncos 24
Jamie: It’s hard to say it any better than my partner just did, and for those same reasons I will be picking the Patriots. That said, even though neither Brady or Manning are spring chickens, I’ll be rooting for Peyton to hopefully get to another Super Bowl. With the decline in play and health this season for Manning, I’d like to see him ride off into the sunset on a high note. While that’s not always true and competitors usually go out on their back rather than on the shoulders of teammates, it’s a silly sentiment I’m hoping to see — even as a Brady fan. That said, my head overrules my heart when it comes to
putting pen to paper fingers to keyboard. Patriots 23, Broncos 17
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP – Cardinals (13-4) @ Panthers (16-1)
Alex: The Cardinals played arguably their worst game of the season last week and still prevailed. The Panthers played one great half and nearly had one great collapse. The stress point here will be on the Panthers secondary. Josh Norman is great. But does Carolina have enough to account for John Brown and Michael Floyd? Bruce Arians will surely have something dialed up. Cam Newton has carried this team all season, but I’ve long thought Arizona was the best team in the NFC. They’ll prove that here with a solid win on the road to get back to the Super Bowl. Cardinals 23, Panthers 20
Jamie: If you’ve read this site for any period of time, I think my love affair with Bruce Arians as a coach is well-known. I think he’s the best coach in the NFL not named Belichick, and his go-for-broke style is one I wholeheartedly support. Like my parter I’ve also thought Arizona was the best team in the NFC…until recently. My thoughts on Cam Newton and the entire Panthers team and staff has really solidified over the past two months. The Panthers are no longer a good team getting lucky with their schedule and play. They’re a great team that is proving it. Sure, they gave up a big lead. But they had a big lead to begin with. The team is at home, with the league’s soon-to-be MVP playing out of his mind, and a defense that is one of the league’s best. Arizona should, and likely will, test them, but while my heart is pulling for Arizona, much like my last choice, I’m going with my head. Panthers 30, Cardinals 27