We're down to the final three games (that matter) of the 2015-16 NFL season, and two of them will take place on Sunday, as the two teams that will battle in Super Bowl 50 will be determined. Now is the time to sound off on who you think will win these games on Sunday, thanks to our friends from The Crowd's Line.
We'll start with the first game of the day. It will take place in Denver, and feature the two top seeds in the AFC as the second-seeded New England Patriots will head to the Mile High City to take on the top seed in the conference, the Denver Broncos.
The biggest factor in this one, from what I can see, is how effective is Peyton Manning going to be in running the Broncos' offense. This season, counting Denver's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, Manning has thrown exactly one touchdown pass at home, a 1-yarder to Owen Daniels against the Vikings in Week 4. (By contrast, Tom Brady has thrown three touchdown passes in Denver this season.) You'd have to think that Manning is going to have to be more effective than that in order for Denver to win this match-up, and he looked pretty limited last week. Yes, the Broncos' receivers had a lot of drops, but it just doesn't look like the Broncos can do as much on offense as they'd like to with Manning's limitations.
The Patriots appear to have all of their pieces back on offense, with Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski as close to full strength as they're going to be at this point in the season. The Broncos are going to have to play a perfect game and hope for a few Patriots' mistakes in this one to advance. Honestly, I don't see it happening.
The Patriots win their second consecutive AFC Championship, taking down the Broncos by a final score of 27-17.
Both of these teams played exciting games in the Divisional Round. The Cardinals knocked off the Green Bay Packers in overtime, 26-20, while the Panthers got out to a 31-0 halftime lead and had to hold on to defeat the Seattle Seahawks, 31-24.
There's every reason to believe that this is going to be the better of the two games on Championship Sunday. Both of these two teams have dynamic pieces on offense, and they both have outstanding defenses. They feature the players that should, arguably, finish 1-2 in this year's MVP balloting in Cam Newton and Carson Palmer. The weather isn't going to be a factor, as "Snowmageddon" will have left the area before this one gets underway.
Overall, these two teams appear to be pretty evenly matched. So, I don't know if I can make a pick with my brain for this one, so I'll go the other way and just say. . .man, after his performance last week and the career he's had, I really want to see Larry Fitzgerald get another shot at a championship. That's really the biggest thing my selection is based on in this one.
I'll go Cardinals 27, Panthers 24 to set up a New England/Arizona Super Bowl in Santa Clara in two weeks.
That's what I have, folks. . .who do you have in this weekend's action?