We are down to the final three games of the NFL season. The first two are this Sunday with both the AFC and NFC Championship Games followed by Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday, Feb. 2. The New England Patriots will be on the road at Mile High to square off against the Denver Broncos in the AFC, while we will have a rubber match in the NFC title game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks. Most people would have to agree that things have followed suit this season as all four of these teams were the top two favorites in their respective conference to make it to Super Bowl XLVIII.
Starting in the AFC, it is a fantasy football dream with Tom Brady squaring off against Peyton Manning, but fans have to remember that these two future NFL Hall of Famers do not actually play against one another. A bigger matchup in this game could New England running back LaGarrette Blount against a Denver defense that was ranked eighth in the NFL at stopping the run. Blount put up some big time fantasy football numbers last week against Indianapolis with 166 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 24 carries.
Look for a heavy dose of the Patriots' running game again this Sunday, as they turn what everyone thinks will be an aerial shootout into a grinder in an effort to control the clock and keep Manning on the sidelines for as long as possible. New England is a 5.5-point road underdog with most books, but it will not need any points in a straight-up win.
Defense will be the name of the game in the NFC Championship in what will be a test of wills between two teams (and two head coaches) that really do not like one another. Current form might give 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick the slight edge over Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, but neither of these young guns is going put up numbers that would excite any fantasy football fan. This game will be decided in the trenches and players such as Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch will garner the most attention by running the ball.
The biggest edge in my book is the Seahawks playing this game on their home field. The home team in this NFC West rivalry is 9-1 SU in the last 10 meetings including both of this year's regular season games. In the end, San Francisco covers with the current 3.5-point spread, but Seattle goes to the Super Bowl with the 20-17 win.
For a breakdown of some of the key stats in each of these matchups that could have a major impact on the eventual outcome, please check at an article I wrote this week for Sporting Charts (linked below).
NFL AFC and NFC Championship Previews