Forget the regular season. That’s long gone for all the teams involved in the Conference Championships. In fact, forget last week. These teams are playing for the Super Bowl now, and they will pull out all the stops necessary to get there. But which two teams have the best chances of making their way past the Conference Championship landmine and landing safely in the goldmine that is Super Bowl 50 (It still feels weird putting regular numbers there)?
I’ve gone back and forth in both contests all week because the teams are pretty evenly matched. The Panthers and Cardinals didn’t play during the regular season, but both have been the top 2 teams in the league all season, and both had a couple of hiccups during the year that didn’t hurt them overall. But who is playing better right now? As for the AFC, the Broncos and the Patriots match up well overall, with the Broncos carrying the better running game, and the Patriots the better passing attack. Will it come down to whoever has the ball last?
Will the coin flip for one or two overtimes this Sunday? Only time will tell, but here are my Ace Picks for the Conference Round…
#2 NEW ENGLAND @ #1 DENVER – The Broncos virtually stole away the #1 seed that seemed destined to be the Patriots’ all year long until the final month. Peyton Manning returned for a full game last week and looked okay against the Steelers. With another week of practice under his belt, and with the better defense and running game, I think he dials up another win at home against Brady and Belichick. Pick: DENVER.
#2 ARIZONA @ #1 CAROLINA – The past two seasons we’ve seen something that was pretty rare until then — the top seeds in both conferences making it to the Super Bowl. So it stands to reason that both #1’s won’t make it to the big dance. And while even money is on the Broncos being odd man out, perhaps it’s the upstart Panthers who will trip coming down to the wire. Somehow I don’t think so, though. While Carson Palmer has not played well of late, Cam Newton continues to roll. He will impose his will on this game. Pick: CAROLINA.