Tag Archives: Anquan Boldin

NFL Playoffs: 2017 NFL Wild-Card Weekend Predictions!

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Miami’s run to the playoffs started in Week 6 against the Steelers. On Sunday, the Dolphins will meet them again in Pittsburgh.

By: Elias McMillan

 

Last Week: 14-2

Final 2016 Regular Season Record: 163-91-2

NFL Playoffs: Wildcard Weekend

Oakland @ Houston – For the second straight year, ESPN gets stuck with coverage of a playoff game in Houston that no one really wanted to see. Oakland was such a great story this season until about 2 weeks ago. Within that time, they have lost their starter and backup QB in rout to already being clinched for a post-season berth in the playoffs. Where Oakland goes from here is anyone’s guess. Houston has had its QB troubles recently too. Houston’s 72 million dollar man, QB Brock Osweiler, was bench about 3 weeks ago but because of a concussion suffered by his replacement, backup Tom Savage, Osweiler will be back in the starting position this Saturday. We have to imagine that Osweiler isn’t feeling too confident about his standing as the leader of the offense or as a competent QB in this league. The fact is that Osweiler hasn’t lived up to expectations this season. I’m not sure if Houston is going to need Osweiler to be great to win this playoff game. Houston has other weapons on the team that will make them a tough out for the Raiders. RB Lamar Miller had a good first season with the Texans. He was held out from the last two games of the regular season and he should be fresh and ready to go this weekend. Oakland will have to find a way to account for Miller as they ranked 23rd in the league in run defense. Houston is going to have to run the ball effectively in this game in order to control the clock and to keep Osweiler from making a mistake. Oakland doesn’t have a strong run defense but their defense can affect the game in other ways. Edge rushers, Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, have made a living this season at creating chaos in the opponents back field. Oakland allows quite a few yards through the air but I like the way safety Reggie Nelson has been playing lately. Oakland doesn’t have the best defense in the playoffs but they have the ability to create turnovers that can change the game. After being down two QB’s, the Raiders will have to start QB Connor Cook on Saturday who is making his career debut as a pro. Cook is a real wildcard in this matchup because no one knows what to expect from him. Oakland’s offensive line has a huge task ahead of them as they will have to protect their young QB against a pretty good Houston defense. DE Jadeveon Clowney has finally emerged as a difference maker on the field with the absence of J.J. Watt. Oakland has had a serviceable running game this season so with Cook starting, we may see a steady dose of RB Latavius Murray. Houston has one of the top pass defenses in the league so it will be interesting seeing how Cook want to attack them with Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree. In their matchup earlier this season, Houston outplayed Oakland really but they were on the wrong end of a couple of bad calls. I bet Oakland thinks that can play better than what they did in the last matchup but Houston probably has the bigger revenge chip on their shoulder. Oakland won 12 games this season and I think their playmakers on defense will be the difference. I’m taking the Raiders in a low scoring affair. Prediction: Raiders 18 – Texans 14

Detroit @ Seattle – In the second game on Saturday, we’ll see two teams that don’t look like they are ready to make a run towards the Super Bowl. Detroit squandered their lead in the NFC North to the Packers in a matter of 3 weeks. Seattle wrapped up the NFC West earlier but since the injury to Earl Thomas, they haven’t looked the same. Detroit still has its work cut out for them if they hope to upset Seattle who is usually a monster at home. But with the way Seattle has been playing lately, they are definitely vulnerable right now, even with the home field advantage. If Detroit can keep Seattle from controlling the clock on offense, they’ll have a shot at winning this game. Detroit has been inconsistent at stopping the run on defense but Seattle’s run game has been inconsistent as well. I don’t know how well Russell Wilson will play but Detroit will have to find a way to pressure him in order to keep him from making big plays. Last year in the playoffs, Wilson struggled in that first game at Minnesota but was still able to make the big play late to help Seattle get the victory. With the state of the Seahawks offensive line, I believe the Lions will be able to get after Wilson. Seattle is still pretty good defensively even without Earl Thomas. The Seahawks have a good pass rush and one of the top run defenses in the league. Detroit should have a hard time getting the run game going which will open the door for QB Matt Stafford to try to win the game with his arm. The Legion of Boom isn’t quite that without Thomas in the lineup so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stafford find the matchups that will help him get his team down the field. TE Eric Ebron has emerged recently and WR’s Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin are more than familiar with the Seattle secondary. I think this game will be closer than what many people think. Detroit hasn’t won in a month and I don’t think I have faith in their defense to totally shut down Seattle offensively. A wildcard in this game will be TE Jimmy Graham who can destroy a defense’s game plan at any moment. I’m going with the home team. Prediction: Seahawks 26 – Lions 21

Miami @ Pittsburgh – Miami starting the season with a 1-4 record going into their Week 6 matchup at home against the Steelers. Who would have known that game was the start of a 9-2 run in the post season? Miami has had a remarkable and unlikely run to the playoffs this season and it is fitting that they’ll be in Pittsburgh on Sunday for this Wildcard matchup. People see the city name “Miami” and think, “Oh. There’s no way a team from Miami can win in Pittsburgh in January!” That thinking is common but couldn’t be more false. Miami is a ten-point underdog this weekend but I think they could stand a chance in Pittsburgh. Miami was able to beat Pittsburgh in their first matchup this season because of RB Jay Ajayi and the Miami run game. A great coach once said that a good run game is one thing that is guaranteed to travel with teams no matter which stadium they’re playing at. If Miami brings their running attack and is able to control the clock, they’ll be able to limit Pittsburgh’s scoring chances on offense. QB Matt Moore will be starting for the Dolphins and I don’t see him coming out with the goal to just air it out against the Steelers secondary. Pittsburgh’s defense as a whole has gotten a lot better since Week 6 so Moore will have to be careful and be selective about the shots to take down field. Miami does have more than capable WR’s in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills. This game will feature two defenses that can allow both offenses to put up a lot of numbers but again; I see where Pittsburgh’s defense has improved. Not so much with Miami. I don’t have much confidence in Miami limiting Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, or Antonio Brown on Sunday. For Miami to stand a chance on defense, they will need to bring the pressure towards Roethlisberger for all 4 quarters. The Steelers have a decent offensive line but they’ll have a huge chore ahead of them on Sunday in the shape of DE Cameron Wake and DT Ndamukong Suh. I think too many things would have to go right for Miami for them to upset Pittsburgh on Sunday. Miami could slow the game down with Ajayi or harass Roethlisberger behind the line of scrimmage. But the Steelers just have too many weapons for Miami to account for. They wont be able to stop Bell on the ground and with time, Roethlisberger should be able to find big plays down the field against the Dolphins secondary. Miami could make it interesting but I like the Steelers at home. Prediction: Steelers 36 – Dolphins 28

New York Giants @ Green Bay – The second matchup on Sunday features two of the hottest teams in the NFC. Green Bay rode their hot streak into winning the NFC North last week. The Giants have looked impressive down the stretch and many believe that they could be gearing up for another championship run. I have to give Green Bay credit for catching up with Detroit and winning the division but on Sunday, they might match up poorly against the Giants. The Giants have done a tremendous job defensively recently and they might present some issues to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense. New York may not have the same pass rushing abilities they had when Jason Pierre-Paul was healthy but they playing well against the run and the secondary is also playing out of its mind right now. If the Giants can’t get after Rodgers, he will have time in the pocket but many QB’s have found it tough recently against the Giants secondary. Green Bay is going to have to figure out a creative way to get receivers open down the field. Another thing I don’t like about this matchup for the Packers is that their defense really isn’t good. They have had their issues this season at stopping the run and they are recently faced with multiple injuries in the secondary. The Giants don’t have a strong rushing offense but they do have some talented backs that might be able to find some space against the Packers front seven. And with a hurting secondary, the Giants and their talented trio of receivers should be able to make big plays down the field. Rodgers is the hot QB right now and he has powered the entire Green Bay squad during their run into the playoffs. Green Bay has been an overachiever in recent weeks so; I think they’ll be able to put up a good fight especially at home. But with the way that the Giants defense has been playing recently and with the state of the Packers secondary, I can see the Giants winning this one by the skin of their teeth. Prediction: Giants 24 – Packers 21

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NFL 2015: Week 7 Predictions!

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Last Week, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers put the league on notice.

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 8-6

Season: 60-31

Big Five Games of the Week

Seattle @ San Francisco – The Seahawks are reeling going into this rivalry game tonight in San Francisco. I think Seattle is right where they were last season around this time which means, I believe that there is still time for them to turn their season around. Seattle has issues right now with protecting their QB and with holding on to leads. But I think their power running game and defense can still help them stack some more wins this season. San Fran might have gained some confidence last week when they defeated a bad Baltimore team at home. But they are also a bad team that belongs in last place in this division. I don’t see the 49ers being able to run the ball tonight especially with RB Carlos Hyde coming off an injury. Colin Kaepernick will be forced to do too much tonight and that will eventually mean more chances for the Seattle defense to create turnovers. Prediction: Seahawks 21 – 49ers 14

Pittsburgh @ Kansas City – The hype over Landry Jones in Pittsburgh is in overdrive. But that will probably come to a complete halt on Sunday. The Steelers will be in Kansas City to take on a Chiefs team that will struggle to put up enough points to win without Jamaal Charles. Besides the point that the Chiefs offense is struggling without Charles, the Steelers defense has been a nice surprise this season especially since the Roethlisberger injury. The Steelers defense is over achieving each week and it seems not to matter if they are missing players because of injuries. Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones have been missing but it has yet to matter recently for this defense. They are receiving great play recently from Cameron Heyward and James Harrison. The Steelers do give up a lot of yardage through the air but I’m not expecting Alex Smith to exploit that. The Chiefs will have a great chance at winning this game because they have the tools to get after the QB. Pittsburgh suffered another injury to their offensive line, which will prove to be horrible news for Jones. With all the pressure around Jones, it’s going to be tough for Pittsburgh to get anything going through the air. Much like how it was for the majority of Mike Vick’s snaps. But with the way Pittsburgh’s defense is playing, I don’t think Kansas City will be able to take advantage of the lack of offensive production from their opponent. I’m taking the road team by the slimmest of margins. If the Steelers can go 3-1 without Ben, that would be a huge confidence builder going forward. Prediction: Steelers 17 – Chiefs 16

New York Jets @ New England – The Patriots are undefeated but I don’t see them as an unstoppable, juggernaut of a team. I actually think that the Jets matchup well against them this Sunday in Foxboro. I believe that the Jets have the defense to slow Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. I also believe that the Patriots don’t have a great defense so, I can see the Jets being successful on Sunday offensively on the ground and through the air. The Jets really haven’t been consistent on offense this season though. So, I don’t know if I can fully trust Ryan Fitzpatrick in this big game. I’m taking the home team but it will be closer than you think. Prediction: Patriots 29 – Jets 27

Dallas @ New York Giants – After an embarrassing loss last week on Monday night, the Giants will be looking for revenge this week against a Dallas team who is coming off the bye week. The NFC East is now wide open and it will likely stay this way until Week 17. The funny thing is that if Dez Bryant and Tony Romo were healthy, the NFC East race would already to over. Coming off the bye, the Dallas defense will finally be at full strength and we kind of saw a glimpse of that in their last game vs. New England. That Cowboys defense actually held Tom Brady in check but eventually, they got tired. Mainly because the offense couldn’t amount to anything with Brandon Weeden calling the shots. Matt Cassel will get the start for Dallas at QB but I don’t think it will really matter. Cassel will have to prove that Dallas can actually be a threat down the field in the passing game. Until then, defenses will continue the stack the box and the Cowboys running game will have a tough time getting going. I believe that the Cowboys defense will be great in this game against Eli Manning. Manning will face unbelievable pressure for most of the game. But if the Dallas offensive woes continue, their defense will get tired and Eli will take advantage. I would like to believe that things will be different with Cassel but I would rather see it happen first. Prediction: Giants 35 – Cowboys 21

Philadelphia @ Carolina – The Eagles now believe that they’re still alive in the NFC East race after beating New York last week. And for the most part, they are right. If the Eagles can get great play out of their defensive front seven and if the running game can start playing consistent football, they’ll be in a lot of games this season. But on Sunday, they’ll take on a Carolina team that is coming off a huge road victory in Seattle. Carolina is still undefeated this season mainly because their defense. Their defense is clicking on all cylinders right now and Philly will struggle to get anything going through the air or on the ground in this Sunday night matchup. Carolina’s offense has been successful this season so far because of their QB but also because of their offensive line. Carolina is strong up front and they have 3rd best running game in football right now. Cam Newton is such a playmaking wild-card and he will need to lean on his offensive line on Sunday against that active Philly front seven. The Eagles defense will look to rattle Cam in this game but it will be the Panthers defense that will keep Philly from winning this game. Prediction: Panthers 24 – Eagles 18

The Rest of Week 7

Bills over Jaguars – Without Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo will be vulnerable in this game against a Jacksonville team that is desperate for a win. Rex Ryan called out his defense this week and they’ll respond with a strong performance in London.

Vikings over Lions – Detroit discovered last week that they still have Calvin Johnson. If they can do the same this week, they may win their second straight. I’m not counting on that though.

Falcons over Titans – Hopefully, last weeks lost in New Orleans will serve as a wake up call for Atlanta.

Colts over Saints – Drew Brees seems to be back at 100%. I still don’t trust New Orleans’ defense. Indy needs to start stacking up some victories before they find themselves in a race in the AFC South.

Rams over Browns – This is a trap game for St. Louis who should win this game easily coming off the bye.

Dolphins over Texans – Can we get a second straight lights out performance from this Miami defense under new head coach Dan Campbell? I think so.

Buccaneers over Washington – Jameis Winston wont have to do too much to win this game, as Washington’s QB issues will once again rear its ugly head.

Chargers over Raiders – How many close games can the Chargers lose this season? Hopefully, a game against Oakland can stop their bleeding.

Cardinals over Ravens – Arizona blinked last week and didn’t play its best game. They will be antsy to right what was wrong last week against a bad Ravens team.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Phillip Rivers (Chargers) – Rivers threw for over 500 yards last week. San Diego’s running game has been inconsistent so they’ll lean on the pass again this week vs. Oakland.

RB: Todd Gurley (Rams) – Coming off the bye, Gurley will continue the nice streak of games he has been having against Cleveland run defense.

WR: T.Y. Hilton (Colts) – Hilton has been strangely quiet so far this season. I think he’ll be able to play great this week against the Saints secondary.

TE: Rob Gronkowski (Patriots) – Gronk probably feels like he isn’t getting the ball enough so far this season as he doesn’t rank in the top ten in catches at his position. The Jets don’t have anyone who can cover him.

DEF: Tampa Bay – Don’t look now but the Bucs have the 5th ranked defense in the league.

NFL 2015: NFC West Preview

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Jeff Fisher maybe on the hot seat entering this 2015 season.

By: Elias McMillan

Seattle Seahawks – After suffering a tough loss in last year’s Super Bowl, Seattle will have a lot of the same successful elements from a season ago. But they have also added a few pieces that may make them look even better on paper this year. The most dramatic change takes place at the TE position, as the Seahawks were able to swing a trade for Pro Bowler, Jimmy Graham. Graham is a dynamic pass catcher and he’ll provide QB Russell Wilson with a top talent receiver that he has never had in Seattle. Unfortunately, in order to land Graham, Seattle had to part with their starting center. Seattle didn’t have a great offensive line a year ago and they might be worst in that unit this season. Wilson’s mobility can make up for the lack of talent on the offensive line but all that running around might take a toll later in the season. Seattle got a huge lift in free agency, as they were able to resign RB Marshawn Lynch. Lynch has shown no signs of slowing down and this season he’ll be paired with another great back who was casted off from Buffalo, Fred Jackson. Seattle’s receivers are still the most average group of receivers in the league but lookout for rookie Tyler Lockett who could rise fast as a slot receiver and a return man. Seattle will continue to be great on defense this season. They get a great pass rush from their defensive line led by Cliff Avril, Mchael Bennett and Bruce Irvin. Rookie DE Frank Clark will continue the tradition of great pass rushers on this defense and will be great this season in a reserve role on third downs. The middle of the defense will continue to be anchored by LB Bobby Wagner who is one of the most underrated defenders in the league. It might be hard for Seattle at the beginning of the season without safety Kam Chancellor who is holding out but once he returns, Seattle’s secondary maybe even better than it was last season. They loss CB Byron Maxwell in free agency but he was mainly great when QB’s wanted to avoid CB Richard Sherman. CB Cary Williams has had some rough seasons but physically, he is an upgrade from Maxwell and he could excel with the amount of attention he’ll get playing opposite of Sherman. Sherman still has the rep of being the premiere shutdown corner in the league but safety Earl Thomas is the real leader of this secondary. Thomas has some injury concerns but as long as he can stay on the field, Seattle’s secondary will be able to perform up to standard. Seattle has a set formula for success and I think it will work for them again this season. If they can hit their stride late in the season again, they’ll have a decent chance at returning to the Super Bowl for the third straight season. Prediction: 12-4 (NFC West Champs)

Arizona Cardinals – Arizona surprised everyone last season and almost won this division. The driving force on this team is their head coach, Bruce Arians, and their hard-nosed philosophy on defense. Arizona will hopefully carry over last season’s success into this season in order to compete with Seattle for the division. What would really help would be if QB Carson Palmer can stay healthy this season. Arizona’s QB situation was a mess when Palmer went down last year so his health will be vital to the team’s success on offense. Arizona need better play out of their offensive line this season. They spent a top draft pick this year on OT D.J. Humphries and former first round pick, OG Jonathan Cooper, is going to need to stay healthy if he wants to stay in Arizona for the long term. Starting RB Andre Ellington also has injury issues but Arizona has a better insurance plan this season with bringing in veteran Chris Johnson to help spell him. Arizona returns a great WR core led by all pro Larry Fitzgerald. WR Michael Floyd is a solid second receiving option and WR John Brown is a star slot receiver in this league after an impressive rookie season. Arizona has a good defense but for them to win the division, they’re going to need to have Palmer and Ellington for 16 games. Thinking of the defense, the Cardinals may have lost some pieces from a season ago but they’ll be tough again this season. DE Calais Campbell is the leader of the defensive line and he can affect the game as a pass rusher or a run defender. Arizona will be counting on a couple of rookies this season for them to continue to be successful at stopping the run. That might be a costly experiment. They do have serviceable players at middle linebacker in Sean Weatherspoon and Kevin Minter. In the offseason, they allowed CB Antonio Cromartie walk away via free agency and that might be a plus for the secondary. CB Patrick Peterson is one of the best corners in the game and now Arizona will have a more physical presensce opposite of him in Jerraud Powers. Arizona also have a decent pair of young safeties in Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon. The defense should be tough once again and that will keep Arizona in a lot of ball games this season. The key will be if the leaders on offense can be healthy for 16 games in order to get the team to return to the post season. Prediction: 9-7

St. Louis Rams – This will be a key year for head coach Jeff Fisher. The Rams have the talent to at least qualify for the post season this year but the defense must live up to expectations and the offense has to find its consistency. The Rams franchise is surrounded by a lot of uncertainty so another disappointing season might mean the end of Jeff Fisher and maybe the end of the franchise in St. Louis. On offense, the Rams finally decided to end Sam Bradford’s time with the franchise. Bradford’s story with injuries became unchanging so Fisher pulled the trigger to send him to Philadelphia for Nick Foles. Foles had a couple of great months at QB in Philly but he hasn’t proven to be a sure thing in this league and even if he is able to reach his ceiling this season in St. Louis, I don’t think he is as talented as Bradford. But the Rams are just counting on him to stay healthy and keep the passing game afloat. The Rams have a great young receiving core led by Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. WR Kenny Britt is the veteran leader of the receiver group and he’ll provide Foles with the big target that he prefers. The Rams need consistency in the running game this season. Last year, RB Tre Mason showed some promise but many people in the franchise are hoping that this year’s first round pick, Todd Gurley, can become a superstar in their backfield. The Rams would be better served if both backs can stay healthy and they can use them as a tandem. On defense, St. Louis is ridiculously stacked on the defensive line. DE’s Robert Quinn and Chris Long are top-notch pass rushers and run defenders. Inside, DT’s Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers are among the best penetrators in the game. They also added DT Nick Fairley in the offseason to help stuff the run. The Rams should be very tough to run against and opposing QB’s will dread passing on third downs. St. Louis also has a pair of athletic linebackers. LB Alec Ogletree is an active playmaker and LB James Laurinaitis fits the mold perfectly as the middle LB on this defense. St. Louis doesn’t have a great secondary but with that front seven, it truly shouldn’t matter. The Rams struggle with finding consistency from their starting safeties. CB Janoris Jenkins is a risk taker but has great ball skills and has a knack for returning interceptions for touchdowns. The QB position maybe a question mark but on paper, this Rams team should be the second best team in this division on paper. If this team under performs again, there might be a lot of changes on this roster and coaching staff going into 2016. Prediction: 8-8

San Francisco 49ers – No one had a harder offseason than the 49ers. Not only did they lose their head coach for a college job, they lost almost every valuable veteran on defense and even a couple on offense. This year’s 49ers team will be young on defense but they’ll also be noticeability less talented at a lot of areas. On offense, I think they’ll be hurt by the departure of starting guard Mike Iupati. This 49ers team has been known for their power running game but their offensive line took a noticeable hit in the offseason. RB Frank Gore is gone too but at least it appears that they have a replacement lined up. I think RB Carlos Hyde will be set up to have a breakout season this year as the offense will lean heavily on this young back. Having Reggie Bush as a backup won’t be bad either as he will be trying to prove that he has plenty left in the tank. You also cant forget about QB Colin Kaepernick who will continue to provide the big play ability on offense this season. Two seasoned veterans will lead the WR core: the reliable Anquan Boldin and a newcomer from Baltimore, Torrey Smith. Slot receiver Bruce Ellington will probably get more touches this year too as he will be a valuable piece for this offense and on special teams as a returner. The defense this year will be a shell of its former self especially on the defensive line and at the LB position. After losing a couple of valuable veterans on the defensive line, rookie DE Arik Armstead will probably have to play early on in his first season. The LB core has been completely ripped to shreds due to retirements and suspensions. Some good news though: LB NaVorro Bowman is back and healthy and he should be a front-runner for comeback player of the year. The 49er secondary will continue to play their physical brand of football but the bad play from the front seven will probably affect them negatively. I do like their group of safeties. Antoine Bethea is a physical tackler and Eric Reid has a nose for the football. The 49ers are clearly rebuilding but they have some young pieces that they will be able to keep going forward from this season. It should be interesting to see how the offense will try to make up for the shortcomings on defense. But this team clearly wont contend this season. Prediction: 4-12

NFL Conference Championship Predictions!

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Seattle has bullied opponents in their home stadium this season. Can San Francisco be the ones to punch them in the mouth?

By: Elias McMillan

Divisional Round: 3-1

Playoffs: 4-4

AFC Championship Game

New England @ Denver – “Manning-Brady” Bowl XV will sure to be a classic for the AFC title and the right to go to the Super Bowl. New England and Denver have both been the most consistent teams in the conference this season so I’m not too surprised to see that the AFC will come down to these two teams and these two QBs. Tom Brady hasn’t really had to put up great passing numbers to get the Patriots to this point but he might have to this Sunday. The running game has been a surprising strength for New England this season. RBs LeGarrett Blount, Shane Vereen, and Stevan Ridley have done a great job this season by giving this team a legit rushing attack. More recently, Blount has been the lead guy that can get the tough yards and blow by defenders in the open field. Denver’s defensive line has had some injury problems this year and I believed that could hurt them in defending the run. Despite the injuries, Denver has a top 10 rush defense and they did a great job last week keying on San Diego’s rushing attack. I think Denver’s defense will be able to play the run tough again this week so Brady will have to open up the offense a little more. San Diego was a bit too vanilla this week and they opened up the passing attack a little too late last week. If New England has problems running ball, they must go to the passing game early and often. I mean, its not like Denver has a top ranked secondary. Plus, Brady was very successful in the air against these guys in their last meeting. New England’s defense has been overachieving as of late. Their front seven is much like Denver’s where they can usually rush the passer but they also struggle with stopping the run. Despite that fact, New England’s defense did a great job last week. They didn’t let Indy get their running game going and the secondary was able to disguise their coverages in order to cause mistake from Andrew Luck. New England has proven this year to have a tough secondary but I don’t know if they’ll have enough to keep track with all of Manning’s targets. RB Knowshon Moreno could be an “X-Factor” in this game as the Broncos did a great job last week with ball control and running the ball in key situations. More importantly, I expect Manning to be as sharp as ever on Sunday against the Patriots defense. If Denver is able to control the ball and sustain drives with the running attack, Manning should be able to have his pick out of his many targets. I know that New England and Brady have a good track record in these types of games where they are the underdogs but I think Denver is the more talented team and they’ll prove it on Sunday in a close, classic contest. Prediction: Broncos 38 – Patriots 36

NFC Championship Game

San Francisco @ Seattle – The 49ers-Seahawks rivalry is still relatively new but it is already a heated one and a new chapter will be written this Sunday in Seattle with the NFC title on the line. For the most part, all of the favorites have been able to reach the conference championship round this season. But it is the 49ers who have been the team that has taken the toughest road to get here. San Francisco has a team that is tough enough and smart enough to make it this far despite playing on the road. This team is built for a long playoff run and it all starts up front. San Fran is great up front on offense as the offensive line is their strength for the running game and for the QB. Seattle’s defense is tough against the run but they do tend to give up a big gain here and there. San Fran might have to lean on their running game on Sunday, as Seattle is much better at getting after the QB. Colin Kaepernick is playing well right now. I don’t want to take anything away from him but the main reason for his success has been the emergence of his receivers. WR Anquan Boldin was such a huge piece for Baltimore last year and he is now proving his worth once again this year on his new team. Boldin is playing at such a high level where he will have to be accounted for by Seattle’s great secondary. WR Michael Crabtree is now healthy and he also provides Kaepernick with another reliable target. The matchup between TE Vernon Davis and safety Earl Thomas will be key. Davis can provide plenty of big plays but this Seattle secondary was able to shut down another big play TE last week in Jimmy Graham. San Francisco’s defense is the real deal as they do a great job rushing the QB and stopping the run. RB Marshawn Lynch didn’t have too much success against them in their last meeting so I feel like they will be able to key on him and the Seahawks running game. Seattle won’t abandon the running game even if Lynch is having a tough day. I’m sure that there are matchups in the passing game that QB Russell Wilson can exploit but Wilson hasn’t been playing lights out as of late. Wilson has a good track record playing at home and the 49ers secondary isn’t the strong point on their defense. But I still don’t see Seattle winning this game on the strength of their QB. Seattle is gonna have to do it with their running game and by making it tough for Kaepernick to make plays. San Francisco has been on a roll for a while now and their confidence is high sky. The pressure will be on Seattle even at home as they haven’t really faced any true adversity recently. I expect the 49ers to put the heat on the Seahawks early in this game to set the tone. Then I see Seattle, riding a wave of emotion that comes from playing in front of that great crowd, to rally and really make this game interesting. It will come down to the fourth quarter where Boldin will be the closer for the 49ers much like he was last year for the Ravens. I’ve had the 49ers in the Super Bowl since September and I’m not going to change that now. I’m pick San Francisco to score the upset and advance to their 2nd straight Super Bowl. Prediction: 49ers 27 – Seahawks 21