We're down to the Final Four in the NFL, none of which is a surprise. A case can be made for any of the four teams to end up in the Super Bowl. Even though the Broncos are the only one of the conference championship participants that haven't been to the Big Game in the last eight years, they have a quarterback that has been there twice. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, despite making five appearances and winners of three out of four from 2002 to 2005, haven't been able to win one since that great run. The San Francisco 49ers are trying to get back to the Super Bowl after losing to the Ravens, something no team has done since the Buffalo Bills of twenty years ago. And Seattle, the team many thought was the best throughout the season, is attempting to ride their home field advantage to an appearance they hope will lead them to their first ever championship. My record for the playoffs is a disappointing 3 - 5, but I was able to go .500 last week. Two of those five losses were for failing to pick San Francisco. Will I make the same mistake again today? Read on to see whether I do or not.
New England Patriots (13 - 4) 30 @ Denver Broncos (14 - 3) 34: The big story today will most likely be the mild weather in Denver. Much has been written about QB Peyton Manning's inability to play well in cold weather. Unfortunately for Manning, the weather might be good, but so are the New England Patriots. One of my friends, a die hard Boston sports fan, believes this is the best coaching job he's seen from head coach Bill Belichick. I would have to agree, considering all of the receiving weapons that they lost during the off season. Last week, the Pats ran the ball down the throat of the Indianapolis Colts, but there's no guarantee that they'll try that again today. The Broncos secondary is vulnerable, so this could turn into a shootout. While I like what New England has been able to do this season, including a huge comeback win against the Broncos in Foxboro, I think Manning will find a way to make enough plays to stay ahead and keep the pressure on Brady. At the end of the day, this is shaping up to be another classic game between the top two quarterbacks of their generation and two of the best of all time. I'll take the Broncos, with both my head and my heart.
San Francisco Forty-Niners (14 - 4) 20 @ Seattle Seahawks (14 - 3) 23: This may be the most difficult pick I've had to make the entire season. The Niners are coming off a beat down of a strong Carolina team on the road. The Seahawks have the most intimidating home environment in the league. San Francisco can run the ball and plays tenacious defense. Seattle can make life miserable for opposing offenses, especially with all of the crowd noise at home. The 'Niners' last two visits to Seattle have been disastrous. If that's on their mind today, then the Seahawks may have already won. More important is the way these two teams match up, and even in their losses to San Francisco, Seattle has been able to shut down their opponent's offense. The 'Niners have a great receiving corps, but Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree will be facing one of the great secondaries I've ever seen. The ability of Seattle to handle those receivers playing man-to-man allows the Seahawks to minimize the scrambling ability of San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick. I'll have to go against the 'Niners again because I don't see how they are considerably better than the teams that got blown out on their last two visits to Seattle.