NFL Match-Up Mania: Conference Championship Sunday

When I write things here within the NFL Match-Up Mania, I like to think that more often than not I predict things correctly far more often than I get them wrong.  But I found myself in the unenviable place of hating that I was spot on with the concept that the Divisional Playoffs would be a let down compared to their Wild Card counterpart.  Luck ran out on field and threw 4 INTs in his game for the Colts exit via the Pats scoring 6 running TDs.  The Saints couldn’t call for the miracle of prolific offense despite precipitation in Seattle falling to the Seahawks.  In a pair one of one-sided affairs no nails were bitten and no expectations went unmet.  While the Niners win over the Panthers and the Broncos victory over the Chargers kept the weekend from failing to entertain, it just wouldn’t stack up with the first round if the post season.

But take heart, fellow goers of the gridiron, the good news is some of the less entertaining encounters of the past weekend have lead to a set of final 4  teams that undisputedly create contests to get excited about.  Ready or not, here comes Conference Championship Sunday.

Niners v. Seahawks

The top of the NFC seems to suffer from a certain type of discrimination.  No teams known for finesse remain in the conference.  This means someone is going to have to face a physical team in the Super Bowl.  Now which form the pounding will take is the intriguing question to be answered this Sunday.

Oakland Raiders v Seattle Seahawks

While I have voiced my disdain toward Seattle’s QB Russell Wilson being an MVP candidate or Pro Bowl selection far and wide, it’s not because he’s a bad signal caller, he’s just not as impressive as some other ones.  In fact I don’t find him to any be better or worse than San Francisco’s QB,  Colin Kaepernick.  They both manage offenses that depend on RB Marshawn Lynch’s beast mode or Frank “the Tank” Gore respectively to execute grinding ground gaining seen in both running offenses.

Where the differences begins to creep in is in the Niner passing game compared to the ‘Hawks defensive backfield.  World renown trash talker and shut down cover man CB Richard Sherman matched up against WRs Anquan Boldin or Michael Crabtree will provide the value for the price of admission by itself.  S Earl Thomas vs. Vernon Davis is one heck of an undercard to see if passes thrown are to become TDs or “pick 6″s.  The Seahawks air attack isn’t as mighty, but neither is the 49er secondary whose defensive strategy is to win the battle up front in the defensive line and LB corps and let the defensive backs clean up the scraps.

But the 12th man in the room is that the game is being held in the infamous CenturyLink Field.  A home field advantage without equal in the league.

Frank Gore

The biggest factor in my mind that no one is bringing up is the lack of the golden helmet of FB Bruce Miller.  That’s right — the 49er fullback.  Miller’s constant impact at the point of attack in the running game and reliability as a solid check down option in the passing game is something that’s difficult to replace.  Without that force in place, a running game can be made uncomfortable.  If the Niner run game is off pace in an environment as hostile as the Seattle home field, that could spell disaster for 5th seeded San Francisco.  It will be a closer game than we’ve seen between these 2 teams of late in this venue, but look for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

Pats v. Broncos

Peyton Manning

So it’s the premiere QBs of our generation . . . Tom Brady facing off against Peyton Manning for who has the right to further their legacy as both are certainly headed for a bronze bust in Canton, Ohio on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  As this discussion goes, all the the pressure is placed on Peyton.  Should he loose to Brady on this edition of Conference Championship Sunday, all the skeptics who have referred to Manning as a “choke artist” that is the greatest “regular season quarterback of all time” will be proven right.

As much as all the sports media and personalities will pontificate on this topic during this week (me included), this game’s outcome is going to fall to the defense more than the feature stories will suggest.

Photo by Ed Runyon

The Patriots have proven to be a running threat of late while Brady only threw the ball 25 times in in last game.  The Broncos defense has proven that their pass rush is only less disappointing than its ability to stop the run.  While New England’s defense isn’t great and will be vulnerable should this game be one a shootout, at the end of the day, it outperforms whatever Denver’s defense brings to the table.  Brady and company will shred the Broncos defense and it will somehow be Peyton’s fault that the Mile High stopped its climb one game short of a Super Bowl berth.


Written By:

Kyle Nash — @TheSoTG on Twitter

Founder and host of The Student of the Game show

VP of Operations and Editor for The National Gridiron Network

COO and NFL Contributor for The Sports Chronicles

Special Contributor for Pro Player Insiders

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