The 2014 NFL playoffs are near their conclusion as one weekend of games remains before two teams will dance in Super Bowl XLVIII.
As expected, the divisional round of the postseason was full of tense action. On the AFC side of things, the Denver Broncos will host the New England Patriots in what may be the final heavyweight bout between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the playoffs.
The NFC goes through Seattle, where the Seahawks will play host to an NFC West foe in the San Francisco 49ers. It will be the third matchup between the two sides as one young quarterback gets to advance to the Super Bowl with a chance to take down a legend in a passing of the torch moment.
Here is a look at the remaining schedule, followed by predictions as to how the conference title games will play out.
|Conference Championship and Super Bowl Schedule|
|Round||Date (Time)||Time (ET)||Visitor||Home||TV Info|
|AFC Championship||Sunday, Jan. 19||3 p.m.||New England Patriots||Denver Broncos||CBS|
|NFC Championship||Sunday, Jan. 19||6:30 p.m.||San Francisco 49ers||Seattle Seahawks||Fox|
|Super Bowl XLVIII||Sunday, Feb. 2||6:30 p.m.||TBA||TBA||Fox|
NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks
The 49ers and Seahawks know each other all too well, which means it is hard to complain that this will be the third meeting between the two sides this season.
Week 2 was a 29-3 victory for the Seahawks at home, but the 49ers returned the favor at home themselves in a Week 14, 19-17 victory.
|Colin Kaepernick vs. SEA, 2013|
|Week 2 @ SEA||13/28||127||4.5||0||3|
|Week 14 vs. SEA||15/29||175||6.0||1||1|
|Russell Wilson vs. SF, 2013|
|Week 2 vs. SF||8/19||142||7.5||1||1|
|Week 14 @ SF||15/25||199||8.0||1||1|
This game will be decided through defense and the running backs, which gives the advantage to Seattle thanks to Marshawn Lynch, who erupted as he carried the Seahawks past the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round, as ESPN illustrates:
Lynch is one of the only backs in the league who continually finds success against the vaunted 49ers defense, which ranks No. 4 against the run with an average of 95.9 yards per game. In the two games against the 49ers this year, Lynch ran for a total of 170 yards and three touchdowns.
On the road, this is simply a bad recipe for San Francisco. Despite this, safety Donte Whitner seems content with the matchup, per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area:
We don’t want it to end for us. We understand that we have to go up there in a hostile environment with a really good football team and do what a lot of people probably aren’t going to pick us to do. That’s OK with us. We understand what we have to do.
It is hard to not like the Seahawks' chances here. They have run the ball better as of late and have defeated the 49ers by a combined score of 71-16 in their last two meetings at CenturyLink Field.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, 49ers 14
AFC Championship: New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos
Fans have been down this road before. Manning and Brady have met 14 times, but that is nothing—three of their four postseason battles have taken place in the AFC Championship, where the winner has gone on to win it all, per ESPN:
While this means go ahead and pencil in the Broncos as winners, there are other reasons to do so.
For one, Brady has been a bit of a disappointment this year. The Patriots have gone away from the days of Brady spamming the ball downfield to overwhelm opponents.
Case in point—the Patriots moved past the inexperienced Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round via 166 yards and four scores from running back LeGarrette Blount—and no touchdown passes from Brady.
Meanwhile, Manning has orchestrated a historical offense and threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns in the regular season.
Interestingly enough, the two teams switched places in a Week 12 showdown, which Brady and Co. won in overtime, 34-31, behind his 344 passing yards and three touchdowns. Manning was held to 150 passing yards and two scores, while running back Knowshon Moreno exploded for 224 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Now at home, the Broncos are simply a better team. Manning has more weapons to work with and enough silence from his home crowd to yet again abuse the "Omaha" call on the way to a trip to the Super Bowl.
Prediction: Broncos 28, Patriots 24