The NFL Championship field is set, as pro football fans will be blessed with two very different matchups. On one hand we have another potentially epic shootout between legendary passers, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. And for those who love gritty defensive clashes, we have the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers facing off for the third time this season.
Throughout the playoffs we’ve gotten to see repeat battles. In fact, the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos faced off for third time last week, capping a run of rematches.
It all started in the wild card round, where we had the Packers/49ers, Bengals/Chargers and the Colts/Chiefs matchups. The 49ers and Colts completed season sweeps, while the Chargers upset the Bengals after losing their initial game in the regular season. In round two, we got rematches between the 49ers/Panthers, Saints/Seahawks and Broncos/Chargers, as previously noted. Denver won for the second time in three meetings this year, Seattle swept the Saints, and San Francisco avenged an earlier 10-9 loss at home to the Panthers.
Overall, teams that lost single matchups in the regular season went 2-3 in their rematches. With that said, it’s worth noting that all three losses were on the road, with only the 49ers and Chargers earning road trip wins. That doesn’t tell us a whole lot going into this week’s two games, but it does slightly lean towards the home teams (Broncos and Seahawks) being favored a bit more. That’s what the oddsmakers are saying, too.
Let’s take a closer look at both games to come away with a clearer idea of who might win:
New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning clash this weekend for the second time this season, with the first game going to overtime in a thrilling 34-31 win for the Pats. NFL.com had some disgustingly awesome stats for this weekend’s playoff games and noted that John Fox is 1-6 against Bill Belichick and Peyton Manning has lost five playoff games in his career on his own field.
But whether or not Fox and Manning’s history repeats itself this weekend will be decided later. The important thing is we can expect a barn burner, as six of the last seven Brady/Manning battles have been decided by a touchdown or less.
I don’t like betting against Brady or Belichick (unless it’s in the Super Bowl, hey-o!), but the Broncos have unfinished business on the brain and the game is in Denver. It will be close and points will be had, but I’m taking Denver (but not the line).
My Pick: Broncos 30, Patriots 27
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
Another rematch, but in the NFC, the 49ers travel to Seattle for the second time this year. They did steal a 19-17 win on their own field late in the year, but the trip to Seattle was forgettable in a 29-7 butt-kicking. Colin Kaepernick is the guy to watch here, as he has posted just a 41.7 passer rating against the Seahawks, while four of his eight interceptions on the season came against Seattle.
The good news here is that the 49ers love to run the ball and Seattle actually has shown they can be run on (Zac Stacy, anyone?). If the 49ers pound Frank Gore and properly utilize Kap (like they did against Green Bay) it could help keep the pressure off their young quarterback. There is certainly momentum here, too, as the Niners have won eight straight and seem very intent on getting back to the Super Bowl.
Trouble is, the Seahawks are also pretty intent, after falling short of the NFC title game last season. Something tells me they get it done at home against a familiar opponent.
My Pick: Seahawks 20, 49ers 16