BLTD Pick ‘Em: NFL Conference Championships

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Only four teams remain in the hunt for the right to play in the Super Bowl. After Sunday, we will all find out which two teams will face off in the Super Bowl.

As for the Better Live Than Dead Pick ‘Em, it’s only fitting that the one man who likes football the least, BLTD’s founder Ryan Wolfe, has gone unbeaten through picking eight games.

Ryan had this much to say: “I try to keep educated so it seems like I know I’m talking about..but I could care less about the games… What can I say, I’m smrt.”

But before we go into the picks made by Ryan, Brayton Wilson, Joe DiBiase, Louie DiBiase and Derek Kramer, let’s take a look at the two NFL conference championship games to be played on Sunday.

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos 3:05 PM EST
The last time these two teams met, Denver won against the Patriots with a different quarterback, Brock Osweiler. Now, the Broncos have returned to Peyton Manning against New England, marking the 4th time the Manning and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady have faced each other in the postseason and the 17th time they have faced each other in an intense rivalry. Strangely enough, the home team has won each of the three postseason Brady vs. Manning matches… New England has relied on a quick pass offense to make up for a running game that is completely non-existent, and it suits Brady’s talents. Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has always been downright dominant, but teams have proven they can survive his onslaught and still come away with a win. New England’s true X-factor will be wide receiver Julian Edelman. Edelman is one of the best at getting open quickly from the slot, and an important piece that was missing back in Week 12. On defense, the Patriots will be wise to test Manning’s arm, or what is left of it. Denver’s running game has been very good lately, and if linebackers Jamie Collins and Donta’ Hightower aren’t healthy, the Patriots can be in some trouble. However, both are listed as “questionable” by Patriots coach Bill Belichick, which likely means they’re probably cleared to play… The Broncos have gotten this far with an incredible defense, and that defense will be the only reason they make it to the Super Bowl. Denver was the best defense this season in yards allowed per game, passing defense, and sacks. They were also 3rd in the league in rushing defense and 4th in points allowed per game. Even better for Denver, the criminally underrated cornerback Chris Harris has recovered from injury. Expect Harris and fellow cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby to shadow Edelman and Gronkowski and limit Brady’s furious passing attack. If Denver can jam the Patriots smaller receivers, expect pass rushers DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller to create havoc on New England’s battered and depleted offensive line. On offense, Manning was second in interceptions thrown despite only playing in 10 games. Perhaps Manning is healthier now, but he is not the same record-breaking passer he once was. Manning needs to limit turnovers and sustain long drives. If they can do that, the defense will keep them in the game and possibly steal another victory from an impressive offensive opponent…

Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers 6:40 PM EST
Carolina beat Arizona last year in the playoffs, but the Cardinals were also down to their 3rd string quarterback in that game. Now, the Cardinals are back in Carolina, with higher stakes and their best quarterback play since Kurt Warner led Arizona to a Super Bowl… Arizona utilizes an offense that has a bevy of weapons to get the football to. Quarterback Carson Palmer has led an MVP-caliber season under the helm, and has a trio of wide receivers in John Brown, Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald. Each of these wideouts can break out at any time, Floyd had two touchdowns last week, Brown had over 80 yards and Fitzgerald had 176 and a touchdown. They’ll get a tough matchup with Carolina’s shut-down cornerback Josh Norman, but Norman is only one man. Brown, Floyd and Fitzgerald will likely see Norman at different times, but they must be capable of beating Norman when facing him. On defense, Arizona has to play responsibly in the running game against running back Jonathan Stewart. Stewart blew the gates open against the best rushing defense in Seattle last week. Arizona has shown tendencies to be over-aggressive in gap control… The Panthers keep finding new and distressing ways to win, it seems. Carolina put Seattle on blast last week, up 31-0 at halftime. However, they needed an onside kick recovery late to seal the game after Seattle came back to within 7 points. The Panthers offense goes through quarterback and likely-MVP Cam Newton. Newton has shown to make plays with his arm, his feet and any other means to will this offense to victory each week. Stewart will also be a huge catalyst, as his running abilities are always a boost to Carolina’s offense. Out wide, receivers Ted Ginn and Devin Funchess draw a tough matchup, as does tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen, in particular, is Newton’s best target, but Olsen draws the toughest matchup as well. Arizona’s Deone Bucannon is built like a linebacker and has the speed and range of a safety, the ultimate hybrid linebacker to face off against talented tight ends like Olsen. On defense, Norman will move around and face each of the three deadly Cardinals wideouts. But his fellow cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Robert McClain need to win matchups often. Finnegan will see a lot of Fitzgerald, who has an advantage over Finnegan in terms of range and size. Finnegan will need to play well, and will likely get help with fluid coverage from star linebacker Luke Kuechly…

THE PICKS!

As stated, Ryan has an unbeaten record, but Brayton and Derek follow closely just two games back. The DiBiase brothers stand at 5-3.

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Who do you think heads to the Super Bowl? Let us know in the comments below. And, as always, keep stopping back to Better Live Than Dead Sports for all of your sports news, opinions and analysis!

Written by Derek Kramer

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