The 2013-14 NFL playoffs approach the championship round, where only two teams will emerge victorious. Rest assured, there will be excellent performances from players on all four teams remaining, but a couple of stars will emerge as MVPs for the winning squads.
Both contests will be played on Sunday, Jan. 19.
The AFC Championship Game will get the action kicked off at 3 p.m. ET when the Denver Broncos host the New England Patriots.
Capping off the day is an NFC West showdown, as the San Francisco 49ers head north to face the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field in the NFC Championship Game, which begins at 6:30 p.m. ET.
As you might expect from the last four teams standing, there's an abundance of elite talent set to hit the gridiron this weekend. But who will emerge as the MVPs of the championship round? Keep reading to find out.
AFC Championship Game MVP: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning doesn't have a strong record against Tom Brady (4-10), but you can throw history out the window in this upcoming matchup.
Who you got?
The last time these two teams met, Manning was held to just 150 yards passing, but Julius Thomas was out with a knee injury and Welker had just suffered a concussion the week before. Without Thomas, New England's defense could focus more on shutting down the perimeter receivers, and Welker just plain struggled.
Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman breaks down the advantage Manning has over Brady this time around:
The advantage Manning has now that he's never had before is perhaps the best combination of running game and defense. Moreno is running as well an any back, and that Denver defense is also performing. The Chargers were the third straight team, and fourth in the past five, the Broncos have held under 260 total yards of offense.
The Broncos enter this game with a full arsenal of playmakers for Manning, and Denver's been incredibly tough to beat at home. This opens up the door for Manning to have a huge game against the Patriots, who enter the game banged up on the defensive side of the ball—especially in the secondary.
Look for Manning to deliver a signature performance in the 2014 AFC Championship Game, propelling his Broncos to Super Bowl XLVIII.
NFC Championship Game MVP: Colin Kaepernick, QB, San Francisco 49ers
The last two times Colin Kaepernick played at the excessively loud CenturyLink Field, he and his team struggled badly, leading to a couple of blowout losses.
"That's in the past," said Kaepernick via Al Saracevic of SFGate.com, when asked about his past failures in Seattle. "This is a different situation. We have to go out there and win it."
Which team will win?
After watching this team plow through its last eight opponents, it's clear Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers are finally ready to exorcise their demons at "The Link."
During this winning stretch, the dual-threat quarterback has played his best ball of the year, and he's still peaking. ESPN's Trent Dilfer recently highlighted the improvement, as Bill Williamson of ESPN.com relayed:
Dilfer said he has been completely impressed by the improvements Kaepernick has made in the second half of this season. He called it “remarkable.”
The technical Dilfer said Kaepernick is improving his progressions and he is now “climbing the pocket.” He said it was very impressive to see a young player make those strides.
ESPN's Mike Sando also noted Kaepernick's stellar play on third downs the past five games:
Colin @Kaepernick7 on 3rd down, last 5 games: 9.2 yds per pass att, 101.6 passer rating, 11 rushes for 71 yards and 6 FD, 79.2 Total QBR— Mike Sando, ESPN.com (@SandoESPN) January 13, 2014
Of course, it would be wrong not to mention Michael Crabtree's insertion into the starting lineup in early December has had a lot to do with these recent improvements.
What this all means is that Kaepernick and the 49ers have figured out a winning formula on offense to go along with their elite defense. Additionally, this team has found ways to win on the road this season, claiming six regular-season road games and two in the playoffs.
With Seattle's offense struggling the past few games, San Francisco has the perfect opportunity to knock off the Seahawks and advance to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78