Saturday, January 18, 2014

NFL Playoffs - Conference Championship Game Previews

The NFL Conference Championship games are set in the AFC and NFC for this Sunday afternoon with the New England Patriots taking on the Denver Broncos in the AFC and the Seattle Seahawks facing the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC game.
Here is a look at the following games with the Heftyinfo predictions for each game . . . 

The Patriots stormed back from 24-0 down to win 34-31 in overtime in Foxbourough, Massachusetts back in November.
That was then and this is now.
Tom Brady and the Patriots know they can beat the Broncos, but can they do it on the road in late January?
Future Hall of Fame QBs Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
The Broncos held off the San Diego Chargers, 24-17 last weekend and will face the Pats, who blasted the Indianapolis Colts, 43-22 behind a huge rushing attack, led by the resurgent LeGarrette Blount, who scored four touchdowns and gained 166 yards in the easy win last week.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning is 4-10 all time vs. Brady (including 1-2 in the post-season) in head-to-head match ups.
However, the Broncos showed they can run the football as well as New England as they gained 133 yards vs. the Chargers and controlled the football for over 35 minutes in the divisional round game.
If this game turns into a shoot out with Brady and Manning flinging the ball all over the field, expect Denver to win because they have way more weapons in their passing attack, including Brady's former main target Wes Welker, who caught a TD pass last weekend.
If both teams try to run the football as often as they did last week, then the edge favors New England because the tandem of Blount and Stevan Ridley has been nearly unstoppable in recent weeks. As if Brady needs any more help on offense.
There are no secrets here as both teams have faced each other this year already. The Broncos need to come out and do their thing (they set a new NFL team record by scoring 606 points this season) and let the defense do their part.
The Patriots can mix it up and Brady is one of the best ever and will not be intimidated by the crowd in the Mile High city. The key will be whether or not the Patriot defense can slow down Manning and company. If they do and it remains a back and forth game, the Patriots will win.
The call here is for a repeat of the first three quarters of the first game as Denver races out to a decent lead (not 24-0 this time) and then holds on for a win as the Pats mount a comeback in the fourth quarter but fall short, similar to what happened in last week's game when Denver beat San Diego.

Heftyinfo pick . . .   Denver 31, New England 27


The San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks are two teams that simply do not like each other.
The Seahawks have had their way at home with the 49ers the past two games, winning in blowout fashion while the 49ers won a squeaker, 19-17 back in Week 14 in San Francisco.
The 49ers have been rolling, including two road wins in the playoffs. After nipping Green Bay, 23-20 in the wild card game on a last second field goal, the 49ers buried the Carolina Panthers, 23-10 as the defense sacked QB Cam Newton five times and also intercepted two passes.
Head Coaches Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll shaking hands.
The Seahawks beat the New Orleans Saints, 23-15 last week but had to hold off a late rally after a successful onside kickoff by New Orleans gave them a chance to possibly tie the game in the last 28 seconds of the game.
The Seattle defense is strong and has proven that all season long, including limiting San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick in the 29-3 win back in September. It was the worst game for the second year starter in his brief career.
On the flip side, the 49ers defense is right there with Seattle's top ranked defense and should be able to help keep this one close (unlike the game in September) as they get after Seahawks' QB Russell Wilson, who has been sub par in the last four or five games, including last weekend against New Orleans when he completed just nine passes.
However, Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch was once again in "beast mode" against the Saints last week, scoring a a pair of touchdowns to go with 140 yards on the ground. If Wilson gets back on track in this game, watch out.
Special teams should also play a role as kickers Steven Hauschka (Seattle) and Phil Dawson (San Francisco) have been solid all season long kicking clutch field goals for their team. In fact, this game could very well come down to a game wining field goal try in the closing seconds.
Look for a hard fought, hard hitting game with a turnover perhaps turning the tide either way in what figures to be a close game.
One more thing, although they do not come right out and say it, just look at the body language between head coaches Jim Harbaugh (49ers) and Seahawks head man Pete Carroll. These guys don't care for each other, which adds even more to this rivalry, because you know they would just love to stick it to each other and run the score up if they have the chance to do it.

Heftyinfo pick . . .   Seattle 20, San Francisco 17

Last Week's Record:  4-0


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