Championship weekend is upon the NFL.
Two great games with similar teams square up to determine this year’s Super Bowl participants.
Sunday’s first matchup pits two rivals — Peyton Manning and Tom Brady — yet again. Both Denver and New England have been riddled with injuries on both sides of the ball, but a somewhat weak AFC provided little challenge for either club.
Denver’s expectations are a mile high, Super Bowl win or bust, while very few expected the Patriots to be in the AFC title game especially after the injury to tight end Rob Gronkowski and the arrest of Aaron Hernandez.
The Broncos are itching to erase the embarrasement of blowing a 24-0 lead and losing 34-31 in overtime to New England earlier this season. Denver does have the luxury of playing at home, which bothered San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers plenty during last week’s 24-17 win.
Many figure the Patriots will attack Denver on the ground as New England ran for more than 200 yards in last week’s win against Indianapolis. However, a depleted Denver secondary makes for a desirable target.
Denver must stop the run of couse, which they do very well, but the secondary must bend and not break. Holding Brady and company to field goals is key if Peyton Manning and his desperados hope to advance to the Super Bowl.
However, an aerial shootout is likely as both quarterbacks showed they can pick apart anyone at any time. Denver is the slight favorite, and last week’s crowd was one of the loudest in the history of the new Mile High Stadium.
I have to be a homer and take the Broncos, but it will be another thrilling Manning-Brady duel.
Up in the Northwest, Seattle aims for its second-ever trip to the Super Bowl. In their way is San Francisco, who beat up Carolina and may be the best team in the NFL at this point.
Nevada legend/God Colin Kaepernick is in the midst of playing some of his best football and will need everything to upend the Seahawks in the craziest sports environment in the country.
The hesitation of picking Seattle, though, is the inconsistent efforts of its offense, especially in the passing game. Quarterback Russell Wilson has been great at times, but the past several weeks he has completed just over 50 percent of his passes.
To beat San Francisco, he must be better.
Of course, Kaepernick and the offense has struggled mightly against the ‘Hawks defense and the crowd. Too often has Kaepernick wasted timeouts or taken penalties due to the noise. Three timeouts were thrown away due to noise in Green Bay.
He and coach Jim Harbaugh must figure out how to solve that problem, or it will be a long day in the Emerald City.
Since Fallon is a San Francisco-centric sports town, I’ll take Seattle.
Can’t wait for former AFC West rivals to square off in the Super Bowl.
Steve Puterski is the sports editor for the Lahontan Valley News and can be contacted at email@example.com.