Championship Sunday. That’s what football is all about. One game and then it’s the Super bowl. I’m excited. I always get unusually pumped up for the Championship Sunday because these are the four best teams available. This is it. All the riffraff has been weeded out by now. These teams are here because they are good, quality football teams. Last week, I was 4-0. I need to savor it because my picks this week are difficult to swallow.
New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos
This game has so many story lines that it almost writes itself. Brady vs. Manning. Two champions facing off for likely the last time. I have to share a secret with you. I really like Peyton Manning. But here is the problem, I really like Tom Brady. I do. They are both so talented that I would be happy for either of them if they went to the Super bowl. Part of me knows this is Peyton’s swan song and I really want him to end it all with a Super Bowl appearance. I just think that would be a nice way to go out. Unfortunately, he is up against Tom Brady. Tom spent his entire off season having to fight for his name and legacy. People questioned this talent. People questioned his integrity. And he endured and won the appeal. But you know what he wants, he wants a chance to make it back to the Super Bowl. He wants the opportunity to look at the world and collectively say, Shove it. I’m back, baby. I’m back.
Let’s look closely at the Patriots. Their best players consist of Brady, Edelman and Gronkowski. They have no running game. None. Brady is the by far the better quarterback but I don’t know if he has the better team. He has the offense but Denver has the better defense. Let me just be blunt, I hate the New England defense. It’s a bend but don’t break defense and I have never been a fan. They let guys run on them. I don’t like their defenses because they end up losing critical series and then the game.
Now let’s look at the Denver Broncos. Peyton impressed me against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although the Steelers were beating the Broncos and every wide receiver was dropping each pass, he never looked so frustrated that he was just ready to walk off the field. I have seen that look before and when it comes, I know there is a loss lurking in the distance. Instead, Peyton looked resolute. If Peyton loses, this is Peyton’s last game. Ever. Something about that makes me give the nudge to Peyton. He might not be able to throw the length of the field. He might not be able to run. But the man is still brilliant. He is and I’m just convinced that since so many people are picking Denver to lose, that defense will be more motivated to play and those wide receivers will be catching uncatchable balls. Also the running game is built to run against this type of defense. This is the kind of game where they need Peyton to win the turnover battle, manage the game, and they could be booking their flights to sunny California.
I love Tom Brady. I love his spirit. He is fierce. He is hungry and he wants his fifth ring. Period. He wants to go to San Francisco and stand on that podium and have Roger Goodell hand him the Lombardi trophy. Plus he has Julian Edelman. I trust the Tom Brady/Julian Edelman more than any other combination playing this weekend. But I just can’t shake the feeling that Peyton has one more great manageable game to get in Brady’s way. I can’t shake it. So, in the year of our Lord 2016, let it be known that I picked Peyton Manning and his shaky arm and resolute spirit against Tom Brady and his greatness.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers
Arizona is a great team. They have the wide receivers. They have Larry Fitzgerald. They have an excellent defense. But I don’t trust Carson Palmer. I just don’t trust him. I wouldn’t trust him to toss me the remote. Let alone, go against Cam Newton on Sunday. I watched him play against the Green Bay Packers and what I saw was more than just your average playoff jitters. I saw the capacity to absolutely choke in the big game. I did. And that was home in a comfy dome. I expect weather to be a factor. Temperatures are predicted to dip into the thirties by game time but no precipitation is expected. This is what I know. Cam Newton is a beast, even though Greg Olsen is his most touted receiver. The other receivers are fully capable of catching the ball. Also, the Panthers are not going to go scoreless in the second half of the game. Arizona will come out hard and they are going to fight. The Arizona defense will come after Cam but just because he is a pocket passer and rarely runs doesn’t mean that he can’t run. Look for Cam to run and create some room for himself this game. If Arizona had a quarterback that I could trust than maybe I would roll with them. But they don’t. I expect Carson to throw a foolish interception that seals their loss. Meanwhile, I expect Cam to be playing like he understands the moment and he unlike Carson, won’t need his hands surgically removed from his neck. I’m rolling with Cam Newton. Dab on them, Cam. Dab on them!
Those are my picks. I am picking the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. Yes, that’s right. I’m going with Peyton Manning and Cam Newton.
I’m picking against the New England Patriots. I’m trying to think. I don’t know when the last time I picked against Tom Brady. Nobody in their right mind picks against Tom Brady with the Super Bowl on the line.
But I have to go with Peyton, the man who has looked over his career and knows this will all end tomorrow if he doesn’t play well today. Tom has years left to play in this game and Peyton has minutes. I have to roll with Peyton.
I am calling out every Denver wide receiver that dropped a ball on last week. I am calling out every defensive player on Denver’s defense. Bring you’re A++ game because Tom Brady and Julian Edelman are coming for you.
Playoff record: 7-1
(Source for this story was ESPN.com, Associated Press)
Alexis Sara Cobb may be reached at: email@example.com or (724) 561-8082 Follow her on Twitter: @alexissara