2015 NFL Match-Up Mania: Conference Championship Sunday

So here it comes this Sunday. . . the games that decide the game that decides the Super Bowl L Champions.  As we attempt to marry the two teams for the perfect match that is this hallowed national holiday, this weekend’s Conference Championship Sunday leave us parallels with the old bride’s platitude, “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue “.

The something blue is pretty easy. Only one team doesn’t have some shade of blue in their uniform.

Something old is captured in the Brady/Manning rivalry  in the Partiots and Bronco pairing.  This will be contest #17 overall, but is the fourth time these future Hall of Famers clashed in the Conference Championship forum.

Something new would be the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals battling as 1st and 2nd seeds.  Neither team has won a Super Bowl, and both would be going for their 2nd attempt to accomplish the feat.

And lastly, something borrowed falls to all the injuries and backups these teams have resorted to starting on their paths to this point . . . especially at the running back position. New England has picked up Stephen Jackson out of retirement, Cameron Artis-Payne was filling in until Jonathan Stewart came back big against the Seahawks in the Divisional round, Dave Johnson has stepped up without losing a beat to the tempo set by Chris Johnson, and while Denver didn’t have issues with running back injuries, they did borrow time from their backup quarterback, Brock Osweiler while Manning was out with an injury of his own.

And with luck, we’ll be looking back on this weekend with fond memories.  Kinda like a wedding ceremony with a lot more movement:

And now, the Conference Championship Sunday edition of The Student of the Game’s Match-Up Mania.

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<strong>Patriots v. Broncos</strong>

While the lame-stream media will try to bill this as the final battle for Brady vs. Manning, chances are this will come down to which defense finds more success.  Considering the performance of the two signal callers compared to the prowess of the “D”s in question, I believe they are handicapped appropriately. Denver is the better defense facing a still dangerous Tom Brady for New England while the weaker Patriots unit will face Peyton Manning staving off the rigors of Father Time while leading the Bronco offense.

Slowing Gronk was what made victory possible for the Mile-High Marauders in the first battle, but Julian Edelman returns to spread defenders out. This will see to it that every defensive back on the field wearing blue and orange has the potential to be tested in single coverage while also setting up the run game in support against a distracted linebacker corps.  In short, the offense under Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniel is the essence and embodiment of Match-Up Mania on the football field relying on one-on-one duels all over the field.  With <a href=”https://youtu.be/SWcVayG9g-E” target=”_blank”>Brady as a game managing quarterback</a>, it falls to him to select the correct target to move the ball down the field.

As for the Broncos, holding the line is most important. In order to protect Manning from the Patriots charge, they need to hold in pass protection first and foremost. It might be best represented like this:

(No actual Broncos were harmed in the filming of this scene, and hopefully, that’s the case in Sunday’s game regardless of the score)

Should Peyton stay protected, he will have the freedom to lead a balanced offense that can allow him to “Omaha” his offense into the end zone. That being said, it’ll take more than a commercial jingle to insure that will happen. Instead, the music I think will be playing at the end Of this contest will be the Imperial March from Star Wars as Bill Belicheck (aka Darth Hoodie) leads New England to another Super Bowl.


<strong>Cardinals v. Panthers</strong>

Both of these teams are to be commended for their season’s performance. Moreover, this is definitely the more intriguing game on paper. If you are having a party for Conference Championship Sunday, don’t be shocked if fashionably late is a trend among your guests. The SoTG MVP, Cam Newton, and The SoTG Offensive Player of the Year, Carson Palmer, are your quarterbacks and there are no issues effecting either one . . . Wait, Palmer had a finger splint on his hand last week? Well, great . . . another injury handicapping going to break down.

In truth, with Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and Michael Floyd as their receivers, it was proven last week as Arizona overcame leaving 28 points on the field against the Packers, it’ll take more than Palmer’s injury to stop the Cards from giving defeat the finger:

Additionally, both squads’ defenses are solid in their own right. Balanced is the best way to describe these entities as the tangibles are measured. But the question that remains for this analysis is this: Is it smarter to pick the team that has the potential to play well overall but play tight under pressure to open the game or those whocome out swinging, but start to throttle back once they think they have it won? Considering we haven’t seen Carolina play a full 60 minutes in 2 months, the Panthers leave me fearful of their resolve. Oh sure, some kids who are Panthers fans will walk away with their share of game balls, but it will be in a losing effort.

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