NFL Conference Championship Predictions

David Loughran '16 and Michael Peters '16, Sports Section Editor and Managing Editor

It was another wild weekend in the NFL last week! The New England Patriots defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, in maybe the most reasonable game of the weekend, 27-20. The Arizona Cardinals won 26-20, despite the last second Hail Mary from Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The Cards answered that with an overtime-winning touchdown from wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The Carolina Panthers opened up a wide first half lead at 31-0, dominating the Seattle Seahawks every which way, but the Seahawks crept back in the second half, eventually losing 31-24. In the final game, it was a battle of defenses and kickers. However, the Denver Broncos took advantage of a late turnover by the Pittsburgh Steelers to pull out the win in front of their home crowd.

David went 4-0 again with his picks (8-0 total), and Mike went 2-2 this week (5-3 total). Without further ado, here are our picks for this week!

SUNDAY 1/24/16

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos (3:05)

DAVID: This game is not just the New England Patriots against the Denver Broncos. This game is also Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning Part 17! These two quarterback giants have gone head-to-head 16 times, with Tom Brady winning 11 of those meetings, and Manning winning only five. (Four of those games were playoff games, and both quarterbacks won two of those matchups.) Last week, New England played very clean football against the Kansas City Chiefs (who had won 11 straight before losing to New England), and the Patriots enjoyed the company of WR’s Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola who returned to the line-up after sustaining injuries. Tom Brady looked very sharp. On the other hand, the Denver Broncos looked a little flat. Peyton Manning was struggling to complete his passes (although his receivers did not help with seven dropped passes), and the run game had very little success. The defense is the only thing that saved Denver. While New England has not had much success playing the Broncos in Denver, I believe that that this time around, the Broncos do not have the firepower needed to compete with New England. I’m going with the PATRIOTS 35-20.


MIKE: The Patriots look like they are back to their normal selves on offense. Julian Edelman’s return gave the Pats a whole new dimension and helped Tom Brady out a lot. However, their running game is virtually non-existent, which is problematic for them against the NFL’s best defense in the Denver Broncos. The Broncos have one of the best quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning, but he hasn’t been spectacular as of late. The Broncos will most likely need to rely on their running backs and defense to get them into the Super Bowl. I think that this game will be close and fairly low scoring, but I think that Peyton Manning will get the job done when he needs to and Denver’s defense will bend, not break. I have the BRONCOS winning, 24-23.


Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers (6:40)

DAVID: This is a very tough call. Both Carolina and Arizona have top notch defenses and offenses. Arizona did not look their best against Green Bay however, especially quarterback Carson Palmer. In one instance, Palmer threw a horrendous interception in the end-zone that nearly cost the cardinals from moving on. Also, the pass rush of Arizona was not able to get to the quarterback, and they face another elusive quarterback in this round (Cam Newton). The Panthers had a fantastic first half, led 31-0, in which their defense was suffocating, and their offense was lights out. However, the Panthers were not able to score at all in the second half, and allowed the Seahawks to score 24 unanswered points, giving them a chance to win in a game they should never have had a chance in. I think in the end, this game will come down to the quarterbacks, and how well they play. Because the Panthers have Cam Newton, I like the PANTHERS 27-24.

MIKE: I think that the Panthers and Cardinals are the two most balanced teams in the entire league, and it has certainly paid off for them. Both offenses put up a lot of points, and both defenses are good as well. However, I think that this will be a high scoring game. However, I think that the Carolina team that comes to play will be the same one from the first half of the Seahawks game. If this happens, the Panthers are basically unstoppable. Even though they lack star wide receivers, they use tight end Greg Olsen a lot and their running game is extremely good. In addition, I think that the Panthers defense is better than the Cardinals’ defense, who will have a hard time stopping Cam Newton. Especially with home field advantage, I’m taking the PANTHERS, 35-24.