Conference championship week can't get much better than this in the NFL. We have what is arguably the greatest quarterback rivalry in the history of the sport taking center stage in the AFC, and a bitter rivalry in a matchup many predicted prior to the start of the season in the NFC.
Have a look at the schedule for what is arguably the greatest Sunday of football on the sports calendar and also the results that got the teams there:
|NFL Conference Championship Games Schedule|
|Sunday, January 19|
|Away Team||Home Team||Time (ET)||TV|
|New England Patriots||Denver Broncos||3 p.m.||CBS|
|San Francisco 49ers||Seattle Seahawks||6:30 p.m.||Fox|
|NFL Divisional Round Scores|
|Seattle Seahawks 23||New Orleans Saints 15|
|San Francisco 49ers 23||Carolina Panthers 10|
|New England Patriots 43||Indianapolis Colts 22|
|Denver Broncos||San Diego Chargers|
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will host Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday, Jan. 19, to kick off championship Sunday. Then, Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers will travel up north to take on Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks.
It would be wise for Harbaugh not expect a lot of fan support in the house of his team's rival:
Although, Harbaugh doesn't seem too concerned over where his team is headed:
It is going to be a wild day of football to say the least. Let's take a closer look at the matchups.
NFC Championship Game
San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks
When: Sunday, Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
Past Meetings This Season
Week 2 in Seattle: Seahawks 29, 49ers 3
The Seahawks dominated this game from start to finish, and the 49ers didn't even look like they belonged on the same field. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick was intercepted three times and saw very few open receivers while completing less than 50 percent of his passes.
Week 14 in San Francisco: 49ers 19, Seahawks 17
Again, defense ruled the day in this matchup, as there was less than 600 yards of total offense produced in this game.
The biggest difference between this contest and the one in Seattle earlier in the season is that the 49ers were able to avoid turnovers.
In the first meeting they turned the ball over five times to Seattle's one. In the second meeting, both teams turned the ball over once.
Championship Game Outlook
With this game taking place in Seattle with the support of the fiery 12th Man, the Seahawks have to like their chances. Not only have the Seahawks lost just once at home over the last two seasons, but they've also absolutely crushed the 49ers in Seattle in that span.
There is no doubt the 49ers and Kaepernick have some demons to conquer in Seattle, but this team is rolling in with supreme confidence. They have won eight straight, with five of those coming on the road.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks have not been at their offensive best to close the regular season and start the playoffs. Five of Russell Wilson's poorest games in terms of QBR have come in his last eight outings.
In the end, however, I don't think anyone expects any offensive player to find abundant success in this game.
Biggest Key: Win the Ground Battle
This is going to be a bruising game, and if either team thinks it is going to take it over with its passing offense, it is sorely mistaken. Offensive success will begin in the trenches and on the ground.
In the first meeting of the season, the Seahawks out-rushed the 49ers 172-100. In the second meeting, the 49ers out-rushed the Seahawks 163-86.
The 49ers looked great in the ground game while beating the Panthers in the divisional round. They won the ground battle 126-93 against a Panthers team that had done a great job of running the ball and stopping the run.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks shredded the Saints for 174 rushing yards in the divisional round, but running against the Saints is a little different than trying to run on San Francisco. Although, Marshawn Lynch looked awfully potent:
AFC Championship Game
New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos
When: Sunday, Jan. 19, at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
Past Meeting This Season
Week 12 in New England: New England 34, Denver 31 (OT)
The Patriots trailed 24-0 in this game and stormed back to take the lead. Peyton Manning then threw a touchdown pass to force overtime. It was all for naught, however, as a special teams' blunder cost the Broncos the game in overtime.
For all the records Manning set this year, he didn't do the heavy lifting in this one. The legend threw for just 150 yards while the Broncos ran for 280 behind a gutsy performance by Knowshon Moreno, who had 37 carries. Meanwhile, Brady threw for 344 yards and three scores, as the Patriots rushed for 116 yards.
Championship Game Outlook
Both teams will enter this game having won three straight, and both have had their eyes on the playoffs for weeks.
The Broncos run defense started off the season strong and then slumped a bit midway through the season, but it finished the year strong. Although the Broncos did not face the toughest rushing attacks to close the season, they did an excellent job of holding San Diego to 3.6 yards per tote in the divisional round.
Meanwhile, the Patriots struggled virtually all season in rush defense, but they looked good in the divisional round by limiting the Colts to just 3.3 yards per carry.
The home-field advantage is a big benefit to the Broncos. Denver lost just one game at home this season while the Patriots went 4-4 on the road.
Biggest Key: Which Legend Will Have the Best Day?
It's Manning vs. Brady. What else is going to be the biggest key? Manning will be looking to even the postseason score on Brady in this game:
Sure, these two great quarterbacks will need help from those around them, but in the end, with these two closely matched teams, whichever quarterback makes the most plays is going to win the game.
Although the Patriots have found much more balance on offense this year with a consistent running game, the Broncos limited that rushing game in the first meeting, and they looked good against a Chargers running game that had been in a groove.
I wouldn't expect either team to abandon the run, but in the end, both offenses will go as far as their quarterbacks take them.