The big prize this weekend: A ticket to the Garden State!
Oh, and the Super Bowl. Honestly, I don’t think the players, or the fans, really care where the big game is held, so long as their team gets to go. It could be held on Alderaan for all they care, so long as the game ends and the trophy is hoisted before the Death Star arrives.
I think the playoffs did their job, winnowing down the field to the four best teams in football. I can’t argue against any of these teams being worthy of the big show. And the games themselves — like most of the playoff games this season — promise to be as exciting as the Doctor Who Christmas special. Maybe even more.
On with the picks!
New England at Denver: OMG, the Patriots can run the ball! LeGarrett Blount can make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs! And there’s still that fellow Tom Brady to deal with, he of the supermodel girlfriend and Uggs and three Super Bowl titles. With all that said, though, I don’t care how much you run the ball, I don’t think you get to the Super Bowl with Tom Brady completing just 15 passes a game. Inconceivable.
That’s not a problem for Peyton Manning, who just completed two touchdown passes and ate a sandwich while you read this sentence. Plus, Manning has a pretty good run game behind him as well — a little fumbly at times, but nothing insurmountable. Manning is scary-smart at football; if he had chosen instead to be a quantum physicist, we’d be cruising Proxima Centauri by now.
This one comes down to defense and coaching. The Broncos secondary has proven to be very good, but the line will have to step up to stop the suddenly exciting running attack. The Patriots aren’t bad on D either, but they’ll need huge, long drives by the offense to minimize the damage Manning can do. The coaches for the two teams know each other’s tendencies and proclivities, so you can imagine there’ll be a lot of misdirection and mind games going on.
Manning is the X-factor here. He’s like an extra coach on the field, and can read defenses like you or I read comic books. If he as a good game, it’s an easy win. If not…I think it’s a harder win, but a win nonetheless. Pick: Broncos.
San Francisco at Seattle: I really love both cities. I used to live in Seattle, and San Francisco is just an awesome town. Great coffee, cool climates, friendly people…what’s not to love? Plus, the two teams here are so evenly matched, I hate picking this one. But I’ll try.
Both teams have mobile running quarterbacks who make smart decision and throw well when they need to. Both teams have stifling defenses that make passing very difficult. Both teams have stout runners and clutch receivers.
For this one, I had to turn to the numbers. Seattle had the top-ranked defense in the league, with San Francisco at #5. On offense, Seattle ranked 17th, while the Niners were 24th. So Seattle has the better offense and the better defense.
Plus, Seattle’s at home, and that’s a pretty meaningful thing. They’ve lost exactly one game at home while Russell Wilson’s started at quarterback. The stadium literally is built to focus crowd noise onto the field, and the 12th man there is a force to be reckoned with. It’s going to be a tight one, but… Pick: Seahawks.
And that sets us up for Broncos vs. Seahawks in the Meadowlands in a couple weeks. Grab the nachos. It’s going be awesome.