NFL Playoffs

NFL Playoff Schedule 2014: Vital Viewing Info for Conference Championship Round

Oct 7, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) shakes hands with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) following the game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Mike ChiariFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2014

Although some might disagree, the overall sentiment seems to be that the NFL's four best teams will battle it out for a chance to play in the Super Bowl on Sunday. The Denver Broncos will host the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, while the San Francisco 49ers will travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game, and both games should captivate the viewing audience.

NFL games have pulled in huge ratings all season long, but it stands to reason that these particular matchups will blow all others out of the water, at least until the Super Bowl comes along on Feb. 2. These are the contests that most impartial fans have wanted to see all year long, and it seems likely that they'll live up to the hype.

Here is everything you need to know about when and where to watch the conference championship round along with predictions for each game.

NFL Conference Championship Round Viewing Info
Away TeamHome TeamDateTime (ET)Channel
New England PatriotsDenver BroncosSunday, Jan. 193 p.m.CBS
San Francisco 49ersSeattle SeahawksSunday, Jan. 196:30 p.m.FOX
NFL.com

 

New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos

Even though Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning does have a Super Bowl ring to his credit, many seem to believe that he needs to win another in order to enter the conversation for the all-time greatest signal-caller.

If that is truly the case, then it is fitting that Manning must go through Tom Brady and the New England Patriots before he can get another crack at the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Manning and Brady obviously don't compete directly against each other, but their rivalry is viewed as the NFL's best, and they certainly have a long history against each other, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

The assumption seems to be that Brady's team has dominated Manning's team over the years, although that isn't necessarily true. Brady has had more success in head-to-head meetings, but Manning has gotten his licks in as well. When Manning and the Indianapolis Colts finally broke through with a Super Bowl triumph in 2007, they finally got over the Patriots hump to get there. With all of that in mind, Sunday's game feels reminiscent of 2007.

Many observers seem to be picking the Pats due to their mystique, but injuries to key players like Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo shouldn't be ignored.

It's incredible that the Patriots have had this much success with so many Pro Bowl-caliber players on the shelf; however, the magical run will end at Mile High.

Manning seems determined to get back to the big game, and with weapons such as Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas running wild, the New England defense simply won't be able to hold Manning in check.

 

San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks

Based on the quarterback matchup of Manning vs. Brady, it's entirely possible that the AFC Championship Game could turn into a shootout.

Nobody is making such a prediction for the NFC Championship Game, though, since the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks boast two of the league's top defenses. The NFC West rivals split during the regular season with each team taking a win at home, and their most recent encounter was a 19-17 slugfest that ended in the Niners' favor.

This game could be quite similar.

The Seahawks may be the best and most complete team in football, but the 49ers are the hottest as they enter the NFC Championship Game with an eight-game winning streak in tow. In addition to that, San Francisco is a battle-tested team in the eyes of head coach Jim Harbaugh, according to Taylor Price of 49ers.com.

Our team's been in a lot of good primers. Been through a lot of situations. Been through tough environments, whether it be weather or opposing stadiums. This team's been in a lot of situations. Been everywhere man. Like the Johnny Cash song, 'We've been everywhere man.' Everywhere. Been in a lot of situations.

This is the 49ers' third consecutive NFC Championship Game, and they are looking to reach the Super Bowl for the second straight year as well. Since both defenses are so good, it may come down to which offense makes a few more plays. It wouldn't be wise to count out Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, but due to the fact that 49ers signal-caller Colin Kaepernick will be throwing the ball to proven playoff performers in Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, the 49ers have a slight edge.

 

Projected Super Bowl Preview

When the Broncos and 49ers met in Super Bowl XXIV in 1990, the game wasn't particularly competitive, with San Francisco reigning supreme by a score of 55-10. Niners quarterback Joe Montana ultimately outdueled Broncos quarterback John Elway, although it had more to do with the supporting casts around them. If a rematch occurs this year, it wouldn't be particularly shocking to see history repeat itself.

One famous sports personality who sees this Super Bowl clash coming to fruition is college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, and he also happens to think that Manning will rise to the occasion on the big stage:

The Broncos unquestionably have a better quarterback than the 49ers since Kaepernick is still developing, but it can be argued that the Niners have a better overall team. Kap's arsenal of Boldin, Crabtree, Vernon Davis and Frank Gore compares favorably to what Manning has, and there is absolutely no doubt that San Francisco has a superior defense.

In addition to that, the Niners have the advantage of having played in the Super Bowl last year. That means that essentially every player on the roster has big-game experience, which can't necessarily be said for the Broncos. As disappointing as it would be to see Manning fall short of his goal, the 49ers would simply be too tough to beat.

 

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