|Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated
UPSET ALERT next to games in which I think the underdog will win outright, not just cover. Home team in CAPS.
Patriots (-3) over BRONCOS.
With a loss, this will probably be the final game of Peyton Manning's career. At least, I hope that's the case, because it's hard watching one of the best players of all time struggle so mightily at the end of his career like this. Most importantly, if he doesn't win a title this year, he's not going to win one in the future, because this is the best he will be for the rest of his playing days, and he's not playing too hot right now.
I have to pick the Patriots because, despite what the seeding may say, they've been the best team in the AFC this year. This is not meant to belittle what Denver has done all year, but the Pats are clearly the better all around team. Despite the fact that their running game has almost entirely disappeared, the offense is still incredible, and their defense will be able to force Manning to beat them himself, which is a questionable proposition in the year 2016.
And yet, I'm nervous about this pick, because the Broncos have probably the best defense in the league, and we all know what happens when teams are able to consistently pressure the Patriots. Brady will likely be under fire all game, and with no running game to help him.
But, I must repeat today's motto: keep it simple, stupid.
Patriots 21, Broncos 17
PANTHERS (-3) over Cardinals.
For most of the year, I've maintained that the Cardinals would beat the Panthers in a playoff game, but now that the moment is here, I can't bring myself to pick against the Panthers. They've just been so good all year, and despite the fact that on paper the Cards are the better team, but aside from one hiccup against the Falcons in Week 16, Carolina has not played a bad game all year.
Like I said, I'm going with the better team, even though Arizona could very conceivably come away with a victory. One thing is certain though, this is going to be a great game. Also, whoever wins this game will win the Super Bowl.
Panthers 27, Cardinals 21
Last Week: 2-2