Saturday, January 18, 2014

NFL Playoffs: Championship Weekend

I haven't had time to breakdown every part of both games, but I'll give you my top three things to watch for both games! Let's get started.
New England at Denver

1. Tom Brady vs. Denver Secondary
The Broncos secondary is going to be easy to attack for the future Hall of Famer. With the loss of Chris Harris, arguably Denver's most versatile CB, the Broncos will have to get a game for the ages out of the rest of the secondary. It's time for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to show that his solid play all season was not just a regular season fluke. Champ Bailey needs to play like the old Champ Bailey; he needs to play like the future Hall of Famer fans have come to know. Quentin Jammer will have to play like the shutdown corner he was with the Chargers. Tony Carter needs to step up like he did last year in replacement of Bailey. IF those players can do that, the Broncos have a good shot at winning the game. However, if Tom Brady can find his WRs, it won't matter how good the Broncos coverage is. 
2. Peyton Manning vs. Patriots Defense
Now, I know you're thinking, "You just said Brady vs. only the Denver secondary, and now Manning vs. the whole Patriots D? Why are you insulting Brady?" Well, I'm not trying to insult Brady, but Manning needs to be ready to attack every aspect of the Patriots defense. He needs to have every protection match-up memorized, every WR/DB match-up figured out and every LB vs. RB match-up. If anyone can do that, it's Manning. However, Belichick will make it difficult for Manning to know anything about the Patriots actual intent on defense. Manning will need to be in tune with everyone on offense if the Broncos want to keep the Patriots on their toes. All gimmicks aside, Manning will need to see what is actually happening with the defense in order to get the upper hand on Belichick and the Patriots.
3. Bill Belichick vs. John Fox
We've seen this match-up before, but with "more important implications." Now, we get to watch Belichick and Fox battle for the AFC crown instead of the Super Bowl. Again, not as exciting necessarily, but add in Brady and Manning and you've got a showdown unlike any other. Ultimately, it will be Brady vs. Fox and Manning vs. Belichick, but seeing how the two Head Coaches game plan for each other's teams will be a big key to the game. If Fox can outthink Brady, the Broncos should win. If Belichick outthinks Manning, it would bode well for the Patriots. This game will be down to the wire, but very high scoring as both defenses are missing key parts. 
Prediction: Broncos 45, Patriots 38
San Francisco at Seattle
1. Kaep vs. Hawks front seven
I could cop out and say Kaep vs. the Legion of Boom, but I think the front seven will need to be bigger than the secondary. The D-Line and the LBs need to get enough pressure on Kaep but not let him escape the pressure. I expect spies on almost every play because in order to keep Kaep in the pocket and out of the open field, the Hawks will need someone whose only job is to watch Kaep's eyes. If the D-line can get pressure it makes the secondary's job much easier. If Kaep can get outside the pocket and into the open field, it'll be tough for the Hawks to keep up. Seattle needs to get in his head early and make him have "happy feet" in the pocket. 
2. 49ers Receivers vs. Legion of Boom
Notice I didn't specify just the wide receivers, but all of the 49ers potential receivers. Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin, and Michael Crabtree will need to find the holes in the zone and beat their man for San Francisco to have a better chance against Seattle. It will be difficult for the Hawks to keep up with Boldin and Crabtree, but Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell will be the first to match-up with the 49er WRs. Whereas K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner or even safety Earl Thomas will be covering/watching Vernon Davis. I think the 49ers receivers will have a "big game," I put that in quotes because it will be big against the Legion of Boom, but it won't be enough necessarily.
3. Frank Gore vs. Bobby Wagner
The 49ers will look to avoid the Legion of Boom if they can, but the only way they can do that is if Frank Gore can get a solid running game going. Gore will need help from Kendall Hunter to slow down the pass rush of the Hawks, but it will be down to Bobby Wagner and likely K.J. Wright to stop Gore and Hunter. If the RBs can gain 100+ yards on the ground it will open up the passing game for Kaep. If the RBs are held to 70 and below, it will be tough sledding for the 49ers balanced offensive attack. It'll be up to the LBs to stop them, but if Gore can get going, good luck stopping him.
Prediction: Seahawks 20, 49ers 17