Saturday, January 23, 2016

2015 Conference Title Picks

Patriots -3 at Broncos

New England re-emerged out of their bye week looking like the defending Super Bowl champions that they are, and Tom Brady was able to compensate for his banged up offensive line by getting the ball out quick with Julian Edelman back healthy. Chris Harris Jr., Denver's best corner who will follow Edelman and Danny Amendola to the slot, sounds pretty hampered by his nagging shoulder injury, so "Minitron" could be the difference maker in this one with all of the attention on Rob Gronkowski. On the other side, I know this is being billed as Brady-Manning 17, but Peyton just isn't the same player anymore. It's hard to see him challenging New England's corners, and the Patriots' defensive front could dominate the line of scrimmage, affecting the running game. Also working against them is that they keep feeding less efficient Ronnie Hillman, who only has 578 yards on 157 carries (3.68 average) since their Week 7 bye compared to C.J. Anderson's 100 caries for 612 yards (6.12 average), per Rotoworld's Evan Silva. Add in Manning's struggles in cold weather, and I feel comfortable taking the favored Patriots despite their history in Denver (Champ Bailey fumbled!).
Jabaal Sheard and Chandler Jones lead arguably the best pass rush NE's had against Manning.
Panthers -3 versus Cardinals
The former DPOY impacts the game in multiple areas.

I've loved this Cardinals team all year, but it still seems like the 16-1 Panthers aren't getting enough respect in Vegas. Yes, they let up in the second half last week, but that's because they could afford to after that 31-0 butt-kicking they laid to open the game. Their corner depth behind Josh Norman will be challenged against Carson Palmer's high powered offense, especially with postseason monster Larry Fitzgerald in the slot, but Luke Kuechly is incredible in coverage and could take David Johnson out of the game. Arizona's corner depth behind Patrick Peterson could be an issue for them, as well, since Tyrann Mathieu played more snaps in the nickel than at safety before tearing his ACL again, but they're facing an even less imposing receiver group than last week. I'm not sure they can stop Carolina's running game, though, and Cam Newton has just been playing terrific ball. I'm taking the home team and likely MVP.

Last week: 3-0-1
2015 Season Total: 134-117-13

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