The 2014 NFL Playoffs-The Super Bowl

I’m still stung by the 49ers collapse in the second half of the NFC Championship game and Richard Sherman’s disparaging interview still has me seething. I’ll try to stay impartial, but it’s no secret that I won’t be rooting for the Seahawks.

Seattle Seahawks(1) at Denver Broncos(1)

This is a great matchup. The NFL’s greatest passing attack against its most dominant secondary. Although Denver’s quad of fantastic receivers don’t possess a nickname quite as flashy as the “Leigon of Boom” (Seattle’s well-reknowned secondary), they are just as dangerous a threat. Demaryius Thomas against Richard Sherman will be intersting to watch. Thomas possess excellent speed, hands, and leaping ability. Sherman loves to get physical with receivers and dares referees to throw the flag. If Thomas is quick enough to get a clean release, any holding would be pretty obvious. Of course, Sherman is aided by two of the best safeties in the game, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. The matchups in the middle of the field between those two and Denver’s Wes Welker and Julius Thomas could be another pivotal point in the game. This leaves first year starter Byron Maxwell on Eric Decker. Decker has got a fantastic nose for the end zone and is a slippery tackle. These receivers have had so much success in part because they have one of the greatest QB’s of all time, Peyton Manning, throwing to them. This defense can match up phyiscally with anyone, but adjusting to the audibles that Manning calls has proven to be a tough task to all that have opposed it. Denver’s greatest weakness lies in their run defense-which, coincidentally, is the strength of Seattle’s offense. That doesn’t look like it will end well. Marshawn Lynch had success last week against a 49ers defense that is a far tougher than Denver. Seattle’s ability to adjust pre-play will play a huge factor in this game. Another thing to watch is the seperation that Denver’s receivers get against Seattle’s secondary. Sherman will be sure to attempt to get into Peyon’s head. If he’s smart, Manning’s response should be a simple “Omaha!” If the Broncos defense steps up and stops Marshawn, the momemtum could swing heavily in Denver’s favor. However, if the Seahawks offense keeps Manning on the sideline, this one’s an easy win for Seattle. 21-17 Seahawks, although I will be rooting for Manning to receive his second ring.

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The 2014 NFL Playoffs-Conference Championship

AFC

New England Patriots(2) at Denver Broncos(1)

This game is a really, really tough call. The Broncos were my preseason Super Bowl runner up pick, but the Patriots are on fire right now. Despite being ravaged by injuries, the Patriots remained an elite and dominant team in the league this season. They put up 43 points on the Colts without having Brady throw a single TD pass. LeGarrete Blount absolutely dominated this game, having a career day on a big stage. LeGarrete Blount? You mean the guy they traded a 7th round pick for? Yeah, him. That’s a testament to the genius of Bill Belichick and the coaching job he’s done this year. The Patriots defense played very well also, forcing 4 interceptions from Andrew Luck. The Broncos, however, steamrolled their opponents on offense this year during a record setting season. The 2013-14 Bronco’s offense ranks with the all time great offenses in history. Defense, though, has been suspect. During the regular season meeting of these teams, Brady was able to pick apart the secondary of the Broncos in the second half and overtime en route to a dramatic 24 point comeback. The Broncos will start out hot, but let the Patriots back in the game with shoddy defense. Peyton steps up and wins this game for the Broncos and sends them to the Super Bowl with a 45-42 victory.

NFC

San Francisco 49ers(5) at Seattle Seahawks(1)

The last 2 times these teams met in Seattle, the Seahawks have thoroughly controlled the game throughout. It will be a different story this time. Despite the crazy crowd noise and less than ideal conditions, the 49ers are primed to travel to New Jersey to seek a 6th Super Bowl title. Ever since the Seahawks lost at home to the Cardinals, Russel Wilson has been in a funk. He threw for just 103 yards in the Seahawks’ divisional round victory over the Saints, and the 49ers pose a far tougher task than New Orleans on the defensive side of the ball. Kaepernick and the 49ers have won 3 straight road games and 7 overall. The offense is clicking on all cylinders with Michael Crabtree back in the lineup and a healthy Vernon Davis. The Seattle defense is still great, but the loss of CB Brandon Browner hurts this team. If the 49ers want to win, they have to wrap up and gang tackle on Marshawn Lynch, who busted through the half hearted attempts of the Saints defense last weekend. Third time’s a charm for the 49ers, as they steal a 20-10 victory.

The 2014 NFL Playoffs-Divisional Round

The Wild Card Round was one of the best weekends of football all year. There were no blowouts, a ridiculous comeback, a couple of game winning kicks, and the playoff infamy of Andy Dalton grows. Here’s what to look for next week.

NFC

Game 1: New Orleans Saints(6) at Seattle Seahawks(1)

The first time these two teams met in Seattle, it was a disaster for New Orleans, and pretty much a perfect game for Seattle. Seattle has lost at home for the first time in Russell Wilson’s career since that game, but they followed that up with a blowout of the Rams. New Orleans was able to bully their way through Philadelphia’s weak defense on a game winning drive last week, but don’t expect Seattle’s tough front seven to bend so easily. Wilson was not sharp in the home loss they had, but that was against Arizona’s stifling defense, a far tougher defense than the Saints. This game will be closer than last time, but Seattle is too strong at home to lose to the Saints after a bye week. 31-21 Seattle.

Game 2: San Francisco 49ers(5) at Carolina Panthers(2)

These teams met in a heavily contested defensive battle in Week 10, and Carolina ended up winning a nail biter 10-9. This game took place when Colin Kaepernick was struggling mightily, and he managed to throw for just 92 yards in a horrific game for him. As it turns out, that was rock bottom for Kaepernick, and his play since then has been much improved. The 49ers were a dropped pass from winning that game, and that game was played without Michael Crabtree. Aldon Smith was also limited in that game, as it was his first game back from a 5 game absence. This game, unlike the Week 10 match up, will be played on Carolina’s home turf, and the Panthers have three premier playmakers: Quarterback Cam Newton, Linebacker Luke Kuechly, and Defense Lineman Star Lotulelei. The only sure thing about this game is that it will be close. With Michael Crabtree getting healthier every week, and revenge on their minds, the Niners steal one in Charlotte, 17-14.

AFC

Game 1: Indianapolis Colts(4) at New England Patriots(2)

Andrew Luck’s comeback last week against the Chiefs was the stuff of legends, and perhaps the birth of a superstar quarterback. Luck was one of the most hyped ever quarterbacks going into the draft, and he’s done nothing short of living up to expectations. New England has been devastated by injuries this season, leaving them short handed. The Colts, too have suffered major injury losses but have recuperated well. New England has the home field advantage in this one, and that can’t be overlooked, just ask Peyton Manning how tough it is to play in Foxboro in January. The Patriots will be in every game they play as long as Tom Brady is suiting up, but the defense has suffered too many major injuries to contain perhaps the league’s best young quarterback. For the Colts, they are building off the momemtum of one of the greatest postseason comebacks ever. The bye week and the seeding favors the Patriots, but the injuries have taken too large a toll on this Patriots team. 35-28 Indianapolis.

Game 2: San Diego Chargers(6) at Denver Broncos(1)

This is an interesting one. The Chargers needed a whole lot of luck to get into the playoffs, but they trounced the Bengals round one and defeated the Broncos in Denver in Week 15. The key to victory for San Diego is keeping Peyton Manning on the sidelines to prevent the prolific Broncos offense from lighting up the scoreboard like usual. Long drives with clutch 3rd down conversions for the Chargers will eat up clock and make things tough on Manning and the Broncos offense. The game in Week 15 was played without Wes Welker, who figures to be a major factor in this game. If the Chargers win here, they have a great oppurtunity to make the Super Bowl, because the Broncos are most definitley the best team in the AFC. Still, stopping Manning and that Broncos passing attack figures to be a tough task for the San Diego secondary. This will be a much more tightly contested game than predicted.  The Broncos’ offensive firepower nets them a 34-31 overtime victory.

The Panthers were the suprise team of the year, but can they win a playoff game? Credit for the image goes to: http://www.telephonewallpaper.com/artwork/steve-smith–89_original.jpg

Andrew Luck engineered one of the greatest playoff comebacks of all time. Can he top the original Captain Comeback, Tom Brady? Credit for the image goes to: http://media.kansas.com/smedia/2014/01/04/21/25/810-V2jyV.SlMa.81.jpeg

Which AFC West quarterback will prevail in the first postseason meeting of these two teams? Credit for the image goes to: http://cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/13/files/2013/04/6924962.jpg

The Top 5 Quarterbacks for the 2014 Draft

1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville-Bridgewater isn’t exactly a can’t miss prospect like Andrew Luck, but he’s pretty close. He can make all throws, and is a strong favorite for the No. 1 overall pick, held by the Texans. Bridgewater is a complete prospect and should have a lot of success in the NFL.

2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M-Previously, I had Manziel going in the second round to sit on the bench for a couple years and learn before taking a starting position. This would still be a good option for him, but after his astonishing performance in the Chick Fil-A Bowl, he is in a position to be drafted with one of the top 5 selections in the 2014 draft, and he’s earned it. Manziel was nearly perfect in that game, making every throw on the field and managing to escape pressure with his legs. He was fired up on the sidelines, leading his team, and brought home a win after a 21 point halftime deficit in what would be his final college game if he decides to declare for the draft. He passed for 382 yards and 4 TD’s, no picks, and his leading receiver was Derel Walker. Mike Evans who? Manziel’s performance was one for the ages, and one of the finest games from a quarterback I have ever seen.

3. Derek Carr, Fresno State- Carr is a traditional pocket passer, but he is one of the best in the country at that. Carr’s mechanics and decision making are sound, and he has the look of a franchise QB. Carr’s performance in his bowl game is underwhelming in contrast to what Johnny Manziel did, and that’s why they are ranked in this order. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Carr is the second quarterback taken, the Jaguars would be a good fit.

4. Blake Bortles, UCF- Bortles was an unknown heading into the season, but he put together a great season and led the Knights to a BCS bowl victory. Bortles is fundamentally sound and makes few mistakes. Along with Manziel, he is a threat as a runner. Bortles would be a good fit for a team like the Browns or the Raiders, both of whom own early picks in the draft and are in the market for a quarterback.

5. AJ McCarron, Alabama-McCarron owns an incredible college career record, but that was with an overpowering defense and a dominant run game. McCarron makes some nice throws, but not enough to win the game for you by himself. The Jets might take a look at him-his consistency and traditional pocket passing make him a nice contrast to Geno Smith’s unpredictability, and the Jets have that championship defense. The Vikings would have that strong running game  for him to rely on. McCarron is a solid QB, but not a spectacular one.

Other notable College Quarterbacks

Tahj Boyd, Clemson-Has a little Colin Kaepernick in his game, but too inconsistent in big games to merit being on this list. Remember, he almost lost the game with a critical interception in the Orange Bowl-until Braxton Miller gave it right back.

Marcus Mariota, Oregon- Mariota has announced that he is going to return to Oregon for his junior season, and if he delivers next year, he could be the top pick in 2015.

Jameis Winston, FSU-Winston is ineligible for 2014 draft because he is only a red shirt freshman. When he decides to declare for the draft, expect him to taken early.