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NFL morning after: The four best teams advance

marshawn AP

Let’s be honest: That wasn’t a very good weekend of football.

Now let’s look on the bright side: That’s because the four teams we’ll watch in the conference championships on Sunday — San Francisco at Seattle in the NFC and New England at Denver in the AFC — are the four best teams in the NFL. By a lot.

The 49ers, Seahawks, Patriots and Broncos were all considered strong Super Bowl contenders heading into the season, they all went 13-3 or 12-4 during the season, they were all favored to win this weekend and they all won in convincing fashion. What we have are four superior football teams advancing to the conference championships.

That doesn’t happen every year. The Ravens were 10-6 in their Super Bowl-winning season last year. The Giants were 9-7 the year before that and the Packers 10-6 the year before that. In the NFL in the last few years, the Super Bowl hasn’t featured the best teams. It has featured the teams that got hot in the playoffs.

I like it better this way. The Seahawks and 49ers are great teams with a great rivalry. The Broncos and Patriots are great teams with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have battled each other for more than a decade. The combined record of the four teams still in the title hunt is 50-14, the best combined record of the final four teams in the playoffs in the last 15 years. This is what championship football should be like.

Here are my notes from the weekend:

For three quarters, the Broncos looked like the most complete team in the NFL. We all know Denver’s Peyton Manning-led passing game is great, but the Broncos were good all over the place for the first three quarters against the Chargers. Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball were a very strong 1-2 punch running the ball. Denver’s defense held a very good San Diego offense in check for most of the game. Early in the game, even the Broncos’ bad plays looked like flukes, not like major problems. But the Broncos’ fourth-quarter letdown may be a concern: A comfortable 17-0 lead turned into a closer-than-it-should-have-been 24-17 win. The Broncos will need to play well for four quarters to beat the Patriots.

LeGarrette Blount is something special. The Patriots made Blount the focal point of their offense on Saturday, and he rewarded them in a major way, carrying 24 times for 166 yards and four touchdowns. (Blount has only played in one postseason game, and he has more career postseason rushing touchdowns than Barry Sanders and Walter Payton combined.) Blount has always had a phenomenal combination of speed and power, but after a great rookie season in Tampa Bay in 2010, he was largely a forgotten man with the Bucs. Now the Patriots are getting the most out of his talents. One of the primary differences between a bad coach like Greg Schiano and a great coach like Bill Belichick is that Schiano saw Blount as a problem to get rid of, while Belichick saw Blount as an opportunity to make the most of.

Marshawn Lynch is a beast in the playoffs. Lynch has only played in five postseason games in his career, and he has topped 130 rushing yards in three of them: He had 140 yards in Sunday’s win over New Orleans, 132 yards in last year’s win over Washington, and 131 yards in Seattle’s playoff win three years ago over New Orleans, the game in which Lynch reeled off one of the greatest runs in NFL history. Only two players in NFL history — Terrell Davis with five and Thurman Thomas with four — have more 130-yard games in the playoffs than Lynch’s three.

Dan Skuta got the weakest flag of the weekend. Skuta, a 49ers linebacker, made a great play to fight through a block, hit Cam Newton and wrap him up for a sack in the fourth quarter. But the referee somehow claimed that Skuta had committed “roughing the quarterback” by hitting Newton in the head. I’m all for player safety, but the idea that a linebacker can’t tackle a quarterback the way Skuta tackled Newton is ridiculous.

The Panthers needed more from their running backs. Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams, who just finished the third season of a five-year, $43 million contract, gained 13 yards on five carries on Sunday. Carolina fullback Mike Tolbert, who just finished the second year of a four-year, $8.2 million contract, gained 20 yards on eight carries. (Running back Jonathan Stewart, who just finished the second year of a five-year, $36.5 million contract, was inactive with a knee injury.) A team that’s devoting as much salary cap space to running backs needs a lot more production from them than that. Cam Newton, who had 54 yards on 10 carries, was the only Panther who was a consistent threat on the ground.

The Trent Richardson trade was terrible. There are no two ways about it, the Colts made a huge mistake when they gave up their 2014 first-round draft pick to acquire Richardson from the Browns. Richardson ended the playoffs with four carries for a grand total of one yard, with one fumble. That’s horrific. In the regular season Richardson gave the Colts 157 carries for 458 yards, a pathetic average of 2.9 yards a carry. If Richardson can’t show significant improvement in the offseason and the 2014 preseason, can he even make the Colts’ 53-man roster next year?

The Saints’ clock management was abysmal. There will be plenty of blame to go around in New Orleans this week after the Saints’ loss at Seattle. But a big share of the blame should go to coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, both of whom were responsible for some atrocious clock management. Twice in the fourth quarter Payton and Brees wasted timeouts because they couldn’t get the play called and the offense set in time to avoid a delay of game penalty. And Payton wasted the Saints’ final timeout challenging a Seahawks catch that was clearly ruled correctly on the field. You simply can’t waste all three of your timeouts when you’re trying to come from behind in the fourth quarter, but that’s what the Saints did.

The trumpet national anthem was awesome. Instead of famous singers who try way too hard to put their own spin on “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the Carolina Panthers got trumpeter Jesse McGuire to play the national anthem, and he was outstanding. How about bringing him back for the Super Bowl, NFL? That was an anthem fit for a great game, which this year’s Super Bowl — whether it’s the 49ers or Seahawks, Broncos or Patriots — is virtually guaranteed to be.

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108 Responses to “NFL morning after: The four best teams advance”
  1. coot says: Jan 13, 2014 7:36 AM

    After hearing Saints fan bash The Falcons all year, it is great to see that with the Super Bowl 2 weeks away, the Saints are no better off than the Falcons.

  2. brohamma says: Jan 13, 2014 7:41 AM

    Anyone who believes that Whisenhunt’s three interviews, in the days leading up to the Denver game, were “not a distraction” needs to get checked by their doctor.

    The SD offense was a complete mess through two and a half quarters as evidenced by all the timeouts they burned. Denver won’t be giftwrapped a win so easily as that next weekend.

  3. seattlerogueburner says: Jan 13, 2014 7:44 AM

    The divisional championships are always the more entertaining ones. This weekend is going to be one of the best weekends for football ever. Couldn’t have said it better myself with the rivalries. And yes, that trumpet that was incredible. Brought a tear to my eye.

  4. hdahs143 says: Jan 13, 2014 7:46 AM

    My team was not in the post season, so from an unbiased view point, I would say that the PI call against Carolina just before halftime that gave the 49ers a new set of downs from the 1 and a subsequent score, was the lamest call of the weekend. The ball was underthrown and hit the defender in the back.

    I wasn’t aware that the NFL required defenders to get out of the way so receivers could come back to underthrown balls. And the flag was brutally late as well. Pathetic.

  5. flmike says: Jan 13, 2014 7:48 AM

    The Saints’ clock management was abysmal.

    This is nothing new, watch some of the Saints games, if they are behind this is what you get, Payton is a front runner, he’s only a genius when they are winning by 30….

  6. southpaw2k says: Jan 13, 2014 7:49 AM

    Totally agree on McGuire’s rendition. I would also add in Jackie Evancho’s performance she made in Detroit on Thanksgiving as another benchmark for how the National Anthem should be sung. There’s no need for some celebrity singer to perform it at the Super Bowl and overdo the performance when these two people did a far better job at simply singing (or in McGuire’s care, playing) the anthem.

  7. 4949centennial says: Jan 13, 2014 7:52 AM

    hdahs143,

    Come on man. The defender is blindly blocking Boldin from catching that ball. He did not not even turn around to locate the ball. That’s the clear definition of what PI is.

    I am the first one to admit that more calls went to Niners way than Panthers way. But that’s clearly not one of them.

    Also the call against Skuta was so pathetic it would have cost Niners the game if not for bone headed INT by Cam.

  8. unclebluck says: Jan 13, 2014 7:53 AM

    Good to hear other people are getting tired of these women OVERSINGING the national anthem ….its getting really old…..

  9. 6ball says: Jan 13, 2014 7:58 AM

    .

    Blount credits Bill Belichick for emphasizing he keep his pads lowered, as he used to run “too tall”.

    .

  10. TheDPR says: Jan 13, 2014 8:02 AM

    And Belichick was absolutely right. Blount, for all his size and strength didn’t run with power in previous years and somehow none of the Tampa Bay coaches saw this as correctable.

    I am also in full agreement on the trumpet anthem. Awesome. Does ANY football fan like the way “stars” sing it?

  11. flexx91 says: Jan 13, 2014 8:04 AM

    coot says:
    Jan 13, 2014 7:36 AM
    After hearing Saints fan bash The Falcons all year, it is great to see that with the Super Bowl 2 weeks away, the Saints are no better off than the Falcons.
    ___________________________________

    I can understand your point in that the closest thing to a championship for a Falcons fan is a Saints playoff loss. Something that typical loser would say………

  12. keepounding1234 says: Jan 13, 2014 8:08 AM

    I thought it was a good week of football. The Chargers broncos game got pretty tight in the end.

  13. jbeagles23 says: Jan 13, 2014 8:08 AM

    I beleive Tom will once again better Peyton and Seattle will win cause of a better qb

  14. raiderufan says: Jan 13, 2014 8:09 AM

    I wonder how good the Bucs would be with Aqib Talib, Michael Bennett, Blount and the picks they wouldn’t have wasted on Revis if they had Talib? I’m not privy to the bucs cap situation and understand the circumstances but that team has let some real good talent leave.

    On the Trent Richardson point….he just needs to run. That “great play” by the blocked LB that flailed to his back and tripped him doesn’t happen if he decisively takes the edge and runs with some authority. Instead he stops for some crazy reason, doesn’t commit to a cut back or out and easily gets knocked down with no forward momentum. He looks timid and indecisive. That trade and my drafting of him in FF were horrid, horrid decisions.

  15. huthuthaiku says: Jan 13, 2014 8:13 AM

    Richardson is the
    First two time first round draft bust
    Makes Irsay drink more

  16. bunjy96 says: Jan 13, 2014 8:15 AM

    Blount must have started to show up at practice on time. He didn’t do it in Tampa, they had to send a limo to pick him up and supposedly the limo had to wait. He wore out his welcome.

    Am sure BB explained that Blount’s big head had to shrink a lot.

  17. mmmpierogi says: Jan 13, 2014 8:20 AM

    I like it better this way.

    ******************************************************************

    Yes, I like everything to be scripted and predictable, too.

  18. thefirstsmilergrogan says: Jan 13, 2014 8:23 AM

    two things: a little overstated on the trent richardson trade. he’s not making the team next year? please.

    secondly, payton had to use the final timeout on that close call. if its a first down, they’re already cooked, so it was his only chance. and to the guy complaining about him, if you’re a saints fan you are an idiot. he’s one of the best 5 or 6 coaches in the game.

  19. bigwalt2990 says: Jan 13, 2014 8:27 AM

    Watching playoff caliber football makes you realize just how far away the Lions really are…

  20. bonniebengal says: Jan 13, 2014 8:27 AM

    Thumbs up to trumpeter Jesse McGuire. Bring him back for the Super Bowl!

  21. richwizl says: Jan 13, 2014 8:28 AM

    Congrats to the Saints, Panthers, Colts and Chargers on fine seasons but, now, only the best are left and anything could happen. NFC has two running QB’s while AFC has classic pocket-passers; we’ll see which style is most successful in the SB. Meanwhile, edge to the home teams this weekend, but not insurmountable. May the best team from the Northeast win!

  22. theimmaculatedeception says: Jan 13, 2014 8:30 AM

    I’m in the large-outdoor event business. We always use a bugel for the national anthem. We took that from Charlotte Motor Speedway’s old manager Humpy Wheeler.

    It really is the classiest way to honor America

  23. partmachine says: Jan 13, 2014 8:31 AM

    I’d really like to see Tom Brady ask Richard Sherman if he’s mad when the Patriots win the Super Bowl.

    And I hate the Patriots.

  24. restorativejusticeprogram says: Jan 13, 2014 8:31 AM

    Random thoughts:

    BB deserves coach of the year. Half those guys on defense are even unknown in their own homes.

    Carolina: Poor use of cap space to spend so much of it on running backs.

    San Fran: CK’s sleeveless play in Green Bay was a leadership move (contrast with Vick covered up a few years ago). They will crush Seattle by 18.

    Seattle: Without Harvin their offense if one-dimensional.

  25. fatguystrangler says: Jan 13, 2014 8:32 AM

    That Richardson trade is going to hang over the franchise like a stormcloud. Instead of using that pick on a sorely needed offensive lineman or wide receiver, they’re stuck with an underperforming RB. He’ll be 3rd on the depth chart behind Brown and Ballard. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.

  26. GBwomenrhot says: Jan 13, 2014 8:33 AM

    My Wife loved that all these games ‘stunk up the joint’….payback it a ‘beatch’!!

  27. infectorman says: Jan 13, 2014 8:34 AM

    Without Ryan Mathews, the Chargers were reduced to Woody and a very old Ronnie Brown, with little to know acceleration. Woody was never a serious ground and pound back, more inclined to catching screens and dumps offs with limited juke.

    IN the recent SD /DEN matchup, Mathews was huge in keeping Manning off of the field and ran into the endzone the dagger to sew up the game.

    Broncos won’t be so lucky come Sunday. Even though were missing many WR and TE receiving weapons, Blount, Ridley and Vereen will present a markedly stronger run threat to Denver than SD posed.
    SD also had no Pass rush yesterday, which is a tip to the cap to the DEN O-line. We’ll see how they fair against NE.

  28. grogansheroes says: Jan 13, 2014 8:36 AM

    Couldn’t agree more on the bad roughing the passer call on the Niners. What is a linebacker supposed to do when he is being blocked by a 320 lb lineman, all while trying to tackle a 250 lb QB that is trying to run? Looks like that memo by Blandino was followed. It’s great to see the better team still won.

  29. dpdonny says: Jan 13, 2014 8:38 AM

    The Broncos and Patriots are great teams with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have battled each other for more than a decade.

    Slight correction:

    The Broncos and Patriots are great teams with two FIRST BALLOT Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have battled each other for more than a decade.

  30. delhommed says: Jan 13, 2014 8:43 AM

    Dear NFL officials: Thanks for the help beating the Panthers…. couldn’t have done it without your help (bs head butt call, 12 men in the huddle ona scoring play, pi)…. whiners nation.

  31. skippynj says: Jan 13, 2014 8:43 AM

    I’ve never liked the 9ers but I must say that this latest strain of that franchise is seriously diseased. It starts with their no-class, crybaby, paranoid coach who has infected the entire culture with his antics. They chirp as much as any team I’ve ever seen and Boldin’s behavior this weekend positively hydrophobic. I won’t be upset when they start blowing gaskets, which they certainly will.

  32. qckappa says: Jan 13, 2014 8:46 AM

    Excellent article. Thank you Michael.

  33. tdhebert says: Jan 13, 2014 8:48 AM

    Coot, don’t flatter yourself or the Falcons. Saints fans had nothing to say about the Falcons since week 4. You was already a non factor to our or anyone else’s season.

  34. bobleblah says: Jan 13, 2014 8:52 AM

    I will root for the Broncos if Peyton promises to retire if they win it all.

  35. Chuck Norris says: Jan 13, 2014 8:53 AM

    hdahs143 says:
    Jan 13, 2014 7:46 AM
    … I wasn’t aware that the NFL required defenders to get out of the way so receivers could come back to underthrown balls. And the flag was brutally late as well. Pathetic.
    _____________________________

    That is actually the easiest form of PI for an official to call. Every game you see a flag when WR/CB run down the field with the WR a step ahead, but the ball is under thrown. When the receiver tries to adjust and come back to the ball, the CB runs right into him, and it is the easiest call in the book

  36. thedoubleentandres says: Jan 13, 2014 8:55 AM

    I’m am certain Eric Decker was paid to throw that game last night, had to have been a bookie payoff lol

  37. marcuswelby70 says: Jan 13, 2014 8:57 AM

    Panthers clock management left a lot to be desired. Down 13 and in possesion around midfield with less than 5 minutes to go, they were playing like they were down by a field goal.

  38. gbrim says: Jan 13, 2014 8:57 AM

    Jesse McGuire is (was?) a Phoenix guy who trumpeted during the Cards playoff run in either ’08 or ’09, and during a DBacks playoff series around the same time frame. Great rendition, as always.

  39. bobzilla1001 says: Jan 13, 2014 9:04 AM

    Can we please put an end to the myth that the hottest team at the end of the regular season usually wins it all?
    The Ravens won it all last season by limping into the playoffs losers of four of their final five games. And the Chargers had won five straight before being “toyed” with by the Broncos.
    The league’s all-time best sixth-seed remains the 2005 Steelers, who went on the road and beat the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3-seeded teams en route to the Super Bowl championship. People forget that those ’05 Steelers just the season before had been a 15-1 team, which was comprised of players who Tomlin didn’t inherit (wink, wink).

  40. dankinator says: Jan 13, 2014 9:12 AM

    I’m not taking away from what Blount has been able to do in NE, but let’s keep the fanboyism in check here. He was playing a terrible Colts run defense (and I say that as a diehard Colts fan). They couldn’t have stopped Trent Richardson if he had been a Patriot. Look at Blounts numbers against good run defenses like the Saints, Jets and Texans and he’s nowhere near as good.

    Still, I’d take him over Richardson at this point.

    I’m just hoping that Richardson figures it out in the offseason. Otherwise, that trade will be Grigson’s biggest blunder.

  41. dualprime says: Jan 13, 2014 9:18 AM

    Stop bringing up the Patriot no-name players as if the Pats are at a disadvantage. The fact they are new and we don’t know them doesn’t mean a thing.

    These guys are good! BB wouldn’t have them on his team if they weren’t. Just gotta know how to pick and coach them.

  42. seattlesue427 says: Jan 13, 2014 9:23 AM

    I attended a game in Phoenix almost 20 years ago and Jesse McGuire played the national anthem. It was amazing on TV, even more incredible live.

    As for the playoffs, very predictable. Those who are known for whining, whined right on cue. Those who are known for taking cheap shots and immaturity…well, they didn’t disappoint either.

    My predictions? First ever Denver/Seattle Super Bowl. Seattle wins, of course!

  43. thewizardsrevenge says: Jan 13, 2014 9:23 AM

    One of the primary differences between a bad coach like Greg Schiano and a great coach like Bill Belichick

    That’s hardly fair, Schiano was a new coach trying to get a system established and was trying to weed out what he thought would be problems.

    Belichick is well established, longest tenure in the league, and can much more easily take risks on such players as he often does.

    Apples to oranges.

  44. ickky says: Jan 13, 2014 9:23 AM

    But But But……The Packers

  45. weepingjebus says: Jan 13, 2014 9:32 AM

    As a pats fan I certainly agree the Patriots have put together a very good team here, but it has been kind of funny seeing the revisionist history building among people who spent most of the season writing them off. I actually saw a pregame show this weekend with Ray Lewis calling Tom Brady the “master of football” after beating the Colts. It was a little weird.

  46. tedmurph says: Jan 13, 2014 9:33 AM

    Sorry dankinator, running for 166 yrds, 7yrds/carry and scoring 4 TDs is your 1rst playoff gm is an accomplishment(never mind all the return yrds). I don’t care if it’s against the Little Sisters of The Poor.

    As for rushing against ‘good defenses’, Blount ran for 772 yrds, 5 yrds/carry and 7 TDs during the regular season despite sharing time with 3 other backs.

    Add to that the fact he was thrown away by his former team as a ‘problem child’ and has been nothing but an exemplary teamate in NE. Guy deserves his props(and probaly a nice contract next yr)

  47. vegasvinnie says: Jan 13, 2014 9:41 AM

    Being a Saints fan, I was hoping that they’d still be in the mix but you can’t argue that these are the best teams remaining. Also, the media gets to have lots of fun with the Brady / Manning and Carroll / Harbaugh angles.

    The Saints could have made it very interesting after they got the gift reception by Meacham when Seattle did their amazing Georgia / Auburn impression. For whatever reason, both Payton and Brees went into full derp derp mode and effectively killed whatever momentum that they’d built up.

    Sunday, the rest of the NFL saw what Saints fans have been saying for a couple of years now. Cam Newton, while incredibly talented, is a me first whiner that flops with the best NBA or world class soccer players anywhere.

    How cute that Falcons fan wants to take a swipe at the Saints. Still hurting from choking away the NFC Championship game last year and choking this entire season away this year, are you? Get back to me when the Saints go from being the NFC’s #1 seed to being the first team eliminated from the playoffs in less than a year. So, I’d say that yes, the Saints were better after all.

    Good luck this weekend to Pats, Broncos, Niners and Hawks fans. It should be fun.

  48. tedmurph says: Jan 13, 2014 9:42 AM

    Really enjoyed reminiscing about those 2005 steelers. I think about them all the time.

  49. stopthehate15bowdown says: Jan 13, 2014 9:52 AM

    Denver is peaking at the right moment. The defense proved that it’s late season surge was no fluke by dominating the most balanced offense in the league. The continued development of a ball-Moreno 1-2 punch is a huge advantage for us. The patriots d might be playing better too but they don’t have enough talent to stop the manning train… Unless they generate turnovers. Denver has to put together a complete game this week. Stop the careless turnovers and momentum crushing penalties. And for God’s sake Erik Decker, you are professional athlete stop playing like a nervous 8th-grader

  50. rabidboy says: Jan 13, 2014 10:08 AM

    Well…arguably the four best teams in the NFL going at it in for Conference Championships.

    But, goddamn, these four teams seem to get their fair share of calls and non-calls.

    Afterall, wouldn’t want Goodell’s Barnum and Bailey’s three ring circus to have any small-market teams fighting for the Championship. That would mean disaster or TV ratings, corporate sponsorship, big-name player recognition to sell more NFL apparel.

    Yep, the four best teams are going at it.

  51. tedmurph says: Jan 13, 2014 10:10 AM

    Disagree Denver is peaking. Not saying the Pats are gonna beat them, but Denver was more dominant in the first half of the season. Since their bye week they blew out 3 teams that were out of it(Tenn, Houst and Oak) and went 4-2 against NE, KC and SD, all pretty good gms. NE has destroyed 3 teams in a row, including the Ravens on the road, trying to make the playoffs, and the Colts in the playoffs, while getting some injured players back. IMO, they’re the hot team.

  52. thewiz37 says: Jan 13, 2014 10:15 AM

    +1 on the trumpet anthem. That was fantastic.

  53. patriotinvasion says: Jan 13, 2014 10:20 AM

    The biggest thing many of us did not know about Blount is his 6th gear once he hits open field. Thought he was more of a slow bruiser, but that burst makes him a 250lb freight train of a problem for defenses. If he can keep it up, he may just may be the missing link Brady needs for the elusive ring #4.

  54. gochargersgo says: Jan 13, 2014 10:26 AM

    brohamma says:
    Jan 13, 2014 7:41 AM
    “Anyone who believes that Whisenhunt’s three interviews, in the days leading up to the Denver game, were “not a distraction” needs to get checked by their doctor.

    The SD offense was a complete mess through two and a half quarters as evidenced by all the timeouts they burned. Denver won’t be giftwrapped a win so easily as that next weekend.”

    I agree. Not making excuses, because it happens to virtually all teams in the playoffs, but I can’t understand why teams are allowed to interview coordinators mid postseason. If they’re interested in the candidate, they can wait a week or two.

  55. icanspeel says: Jan 13, 2014 10:28 AM

    Chargers were 1 3rd and 17 stop away from making Manning very nervous. Almost gave him a deja vu feeling from last year, but I tip my cap to him for converting the first down.

  56. cowpiesnotcowboys says: Jan 13, 2014 10:35 AM

    If these were clearly the best 4 teams in the league, why did PFT’s final power rankings have the Panthers at #3?

  57. sullijo1 says: Jan 13, 2014 10:39 AM

    MDS is right on…..there is SO MUCH difference between these 4 teams and the rest of the NFL. “Any given Sunday” didn’t even play out once this weekend.

    Best teams won…..cream always rises to the top.

  58. harrisonhits2 says: Jan 13, 2014 10:40 AM

    rabidboy says:

    Well…arguably the four best teams in the NFL going at it in for Conference Championships.

    But, goddamn, these four teams seem to get their fair share of calls and non-calls.
    __________________________

    Please stop with this crap. The officiating was universally horrible this year. The worst I’ve seen in almost 50 years of watching the NFL.

    Every single team both got screwed by horrible calls/non-calls and helped by horrible calls/non-calls this season.

    That includes the 4 remaining teams.

  59. thebirdofprey2 says: Jan 13, 2014 10:42 AM

    Nobody talks about the 49ers breaks that gave them 10 points vs Panthers.

    There was PI called on a hard clean hit that gave 49ers the 1st FG. That helmet contact penalty that doesn’t get same call on Boldin, 12 offensive players in huddle on the goal-line where the refs is watching 49er run off the field before the half. Mike Pereira even called that out and yet he ALWAYS has the referees back.

  60. scmems07 says: Jan 13, 2014 10:43 AM

    after watching the games this weekend and seeing what 4 teams will play to represent the afc and nfc in the superbowl, i’d like to take this time to congratulate the broncos or the pats on winning this years superbowl and thank them for bringing a little class to an nfl product that has seemed to lost all its class with teams like the seahawks and niners.

  61. sullijo1 says: Jan 13, 2014 10:43 AM

    As a Broncos fan, there is one thing I know for CERTAIN this weekend……..they will be out coached. John Fox is way too conservative and NE goes for the throat.

    What does the John Fox say?????

    Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, Punt, FIELD GOAL.

    C’mon Sing it……

  62. Nofoolnodrool says: Jan 13, 2014 10:55 AM

    Really enjoyed reminiscing about those 2005 steelers. I think about them all the time.

    5 5
    Report comment. Please don’t lie Ted. You never think about the 2005 Steelers that would require you to be unbiased and in possession of a brain……we know those two won’t happen.

    The four teams playing next weekend are definitely the best with Seattle the best and easiest to dislike for their chippy attitude. Harbag’s dash on the field made Tomlins side step pale in comparison. The trumpet player gave me the chills with the no frills …great job.

  63. chrisco716 says: Jan 13, 2014 11:05 AM

    NE, Denver and San Francisco are good at home and on the road. Seattle is great at home but not nearly as good on the road. The best Super Bowl matchup will be San Francisco against either of the AFC teams. If I were New England or Denver I’d much rather face Seattle in the Super Bowl than San Francisco.

  64. ravens4fr says: Jan 13, 2014 11:08 AM

    DITTO on your praise for the trumpeter performing the national anthem – that was simply OUTSTANDING! Did you hear me, OUTSTANDING!!! Had me applauding him from my living room….boy, was he Great!

  65. brazzz01 says: Jan 13, 2014 11:16 AM

    The Patriots should re-sign Tebow to get secrets on the Broncos.

    Hey it mattered for some reason when the Colts signed Branch so…..

  66. azarkhan says: Jan 13, 2014 11:17 AM

    Both NFC teams are better than either AFC team, primarily because of defense. The NFC should be favored in the Super Bowl.

  67. jetsmmt says: Jan 13, 2014 11:22 AM

    If the Broncos get a early lead you won’t see the Pats run the ball 46 times like they did against the Colts. Broncos need to protect the football and be fundamentally sound on defense and they should win the game.

  68. pongonfl says: Jan 13, 2014 11:25 AM

    Trumpet anthem rocked.

    Seahawks will need 14 points of turn overs to beat the Niners.

    the officials will decide the AFC champion.

  69. All-American Voltron says: Jan 13, 2014 11:30 AM

    Glad to see trumpet acknowledged. Instead of using the anthem to boost some struggling pop/country star’s career or feature some dumb kid, let’s just have an actually entertaining national anthem where we can actually get into it.

    After all, the most memorable national anthem of all time was on guitar from Jimi Hendrix, so I say keep that instrumental trend going!

  70. ratsfoiledagain says: Jan 13, 2014 11:41 AM

    restorativejusticeprogram says:
    Jan 13, 2014 8:31 AM

    Random thoughts:

    BB deserves coach of the year. Half those guys on defense are even unknown in their own homes.

    Carolina: Poor use of cap space to spend so much of it on running backs.

    San Fran: CK’s sleeveless play in Green Bay was a leadership move (contrast with Vick covered up a few years ago). They will crush Seattle by 18.

    Seattle: Without Harvin their offense if one-dimensional.
    *********
    Harvin harldly played this year. Probably less than 5% of all offensive snaps for Seattle this year. (guesstimate)

    Seattle’s recent issues with their offense has nothing to do with Harvin playing or not playing.

    It’s the way Bevell is running the offense. He needs to step it up and get them back on track. Especially in the passing game. Seattle loses against the 9ers if they cannot get their passing game up to speed.

  71. comeonnowguys says: Jan 13, 2014 11:42 AM

    What’s this noise about the Seahawks not selling tickets to credit cards from certain states?

    Weak move.

  72. johngaltwho says: Jan 13, 2014 11:46 AM

    The 49ers clearly got into the Panthers’ heads and won the unnecessary roughness lottery. Time after time, a 49er would take a cheap shot at the end of the play and the retaliatory strike was flagged by the officials. They’ve always been better than most teams at playing outside the rules and getting away with it. Its a credit to their coaching, they’re like the Lions but with discipline. The Seahawks perhaps are one of the few teams who push the boundaries on the rules as much as San Fran does. Should be great games this weekend.

  73. dualprime says: Jan 13, 2014 11:49 AM

    patriotinvasion says:
    Jan 13, 2014 10:20 AM
    The biggest thing many of us did not know about Blount is his 6th gear once he hits open field. Thought he was more of a slow bruiser, but that burst makes him a 250lb freight train of a problem for defenses. If he can keep it up, he may just may be the missing link Brady needs for the elusive ring
    ==============
    Blount goes from Earl Campbell to Herschel Walker in about 3 steps. I’d love to see him slam into a squared-up DB…next year of course. :o)

  74. negativten says: Jan 13, 2014 11:56 AM

    You are not lying,the national anthem for the Niner game was so off the hookI watched it(listened to it)again this morning

  75. karlmarxism says: Jan 13, 2014 11:58 AM

    Broncos had three turnovers: (SD had zero turnovers)

    1. Bounced pass off of Decker’s chest for a TD that landed perfectly in the hands of SD defender,

    2. Questionable fumble by Thomas,

    3. Boneheaded play by Decker for the onside kick.

    Also, with a TD pass dropped by Welker, Decker tripping over his own feet for a sure TD, and a boneheaded push in the back to call back Holliday’s TD.

    In totality, this game should have been a blow out, and SD was lucky to have remained in the game due to Broncos boneheaded plays and lack of execution.

    I will write this off to playoff jitters on Denver’s behalf. All Denver needs to do against NE is play somewhat mistake free football and Denver should handle NE easily–after all, Denver is the superior team and has more talent than NE.

  76. scmems07 says: Jan 13, 2014 11:59 AM

    im excited to see wilson and kaep throw for close to 150 yards and a little over %50 completion, the future of the qb position in the nfl is going to be exciting!!!!

  77. bradytoanybody says: Jan 13, 2014 12:05 PM

    LOL when a seahawks fans talk about any other team getting the benefit of calls and non calls. See fail mary or their defense hold on every single play going uncalled 95% of the time

  78. contra74isloosbuthole says: Jan 13, 2014 12:07 PM

    Seattle and the 49ers have boring offenses.

  79. cornerstone2001 says: Jan 13, 2014 12:07 PM

    What a joke claiming officiating gave the 49ers a win. They’ve been screwed by officials since the superbowl when the WR’s were mugged with no calls.

    In fact due that horrendous roughing call on baby Brees,the Niners had that saints game AND would be hosting the title game this week on tie-breakers.

    The refs tried to help the Panthers with that
    bogus roughing call on Skuta, but the Niners overcame that

  80. jbaxt says: Jan 13, 2014 12:17 PM

    The chargers had no business being in the playoffs, but clearly the Bengals didn’t either. After squeezing by the Chuefs JC team, and beating a poor QB against Cinci, it was only a matter if time before they got it handed to them. Great 4th qtr comeback but Denver had it wrapped up, it was not a close game.

  81. 1backscratcher says: Jan 13, 2014 12:23 PM

    I believe the biggest concern Peyton Manning ought to have is whether John Fox will Game-plan well defensively. Many may disagree, but I’d like to see the Pats go up-tempo early and keep em guessing and gassed. Brady WILL be ready…This game could be epic!

  82. t8ertot says: Jan 13, 2014 12:23 PM

    The patriots were not considered Super Bowl favorites this year. But the nfl made sure they would have a chance

  83. jtbsteeler says: Jan 13, 2014 12:24 PM

    Let the Seahags win one. At all costs keep the 9ers from winning 6 rings.

  84. davikes says: Jan 13, 2014 12:29 PM

    No matter what happens, the SB will feature a first ballot HOF QB against one of the two best young QB’s. And the young QB is going to have the better defense. Should make for a great Superbowl.

  85. dasmol says: Jan 13, 2014 12:33 PM

    jabxt: still hurting over missing the playoffs, huh steeler fan?

  86. 1phd says: Jan 13, 2014 12:39 PM

    cowpiesnotcowboys says:
    Jan 13, 2014 10:35 AM
    If these were clearly the best 4 teams in the league, why did PFT’s final power rankings have the Panthers at #3?
    ——————————————-
    Same reason they picked them to win yesterday. They know not of what they preach.

  87. donttrip22 says: Jan 13, 2014 12:46 PM

    you mean five the refs and 49ers are one guess coach crybaby of the 49ers finally got into the refs heads

  88. 64post says: Jan 13, 2014 12:48 PM

    delhommed says:
    Jan 13, 2014 8:43 AM
    Dear NFL officials: Thanks for the help beating the Panthers…. couldn’t have done it without your help (bs head butt call, 12 men in the huddle ona scoring play, pi)…. whiners nation.

    Who’s whining today, delhommed?

  89. winstonjed44 says: Jan 13, 2014 12:48 PM

    Two things. First I completely agree with the Blount revelation. He showed a lot of talent and skill his first year in Tampa, hurdles and unexpected speed. Why the Bucs felt he was all of a sudden useless is beyond me. On the Trent Richardson, I agree that the trade looks awful right now, but it seems everyone is looking at in hindsight and making it seem like it was foreseeable. The Colts lost their leading rusher from last season in Ballard, and was only left with Ahmad Bradshaw who has a history of getting hurt, which he eventually did. They urgently needed depth and Richardson looked great in his rookie year, no one saw this coming.

  90. ratsfoiledagain says: Jan 13, 2014 12:49 PM

    comeonnowguys says:
    Jan 13, 2014 11:42 AM

    What’s this noise about the Seahawks not selling tickets to credit cards from certain states?

    Weak move.
    *******
    I live in Colorado. The Broncos are doing the same thing.

  91. 64post says: Jan 13, 2014 12:54 PM

    To hear Panther’s fans sniveling about the Refs giving the game to SF is hilarious. Score more points next time. Mitchell took off his helmet to get in the ref’s face and wasn’t flagged, Patton or Crabs was knocked to the ground after the whistle and CAR was not penalized, grow up Panther fans, it wasn’t the refs that cost you that game, it was the players “lack of composure” as Rivera said after the game.

  92. tedmurph says: Jan 13, 2014 1:15 PM

    I will write this off to playoff jitters on Denver’s behalf. All Denver needs to do against NE is play somewhat mistake free football and Denver should handle NE easily–after all, Denver is the superior team and has more talent than NE.
    ———————————————————
    Don’t know why everyone’s always writing off NEngland’s talent. It’s not all about Brady and Belichick. They’re among the league leaders in Pro Bowlers every yr. Still sending 4 this yr, despite missing 3 others due to injury. Arguably, comparing the teams, it’s a wash at QB, OL, RBs, and defense. Denver has a big edge only in WRs and TE. Pats have HUGE edge in coaching and the pressure Manning has to feel in playing against it and changing his legacy as a postseason underachiever(being kind) and record against Brady and BB. Might not be as easy as you think.

  93. thebirdofprey2 says: Jan 13, 2014 1:18 PM

    Funny a Viking fan talking about 49ers/Seahawks QB situation not being exciting for the future of the NFL.

    Here are some bad words – Freeman, Cassell and Ponder.

  94. jayniner says: Jan 13, 2014 1:31 PM

    Class move on the part of the Panthers with the trumpet version of the National Anthem.

    You know what the difference is between a good team and a great team, after getting hit with a 15 yard helmet-to-helmet penalty on a QB that puts the opponent in scoring position and a position to win the game?

    A good team will hold them to a field goal.

    A GREAT team will intercept the pass on the very next play to end the game.

    GO NINERS!

  95. jacqvoncc says: Jan 13, 2014 1:47 PM

    I’m so sick of hearing how the Seahawks offense is “sputtering or boring”. Did we not score just as many points against the Saints that the Niners scored against Carolina? Or better yet, did we not score one single less point than the best offense in NFL history that is the Denver Broncos did against the Chargers?? It doesn’t matter if you score 3 or 33…whoever has the most points on the board at the end of the game wins. Can’t wait for one of those defensively weak AFC teams to face an actual defense in SEA or SF come Superbowl. Let’s see Manning and Brady attempt to put up those MVP caliber numbers against them!!

  96. Nofoolnodrool says: Jan 13, 2014 1:55 PM

    Might not be as easy as you think.

    There you go again Ted mentioning thinking. You scarecrows have it bad. It’s ok to be a homer, but come up for air once in a while.

    Anyone betting against Brady and Bellichek do so at their own risk. To beat the Pats just jam their receivers and pressure Tammy and hell get happy feet. Add in a fair shake from the refs and you have a chance.

  97. dvdman123 says: Jan 13, 2014 1:59 PM

    I gave the Saints a better chance at upsetting the Seahawks than the Panthers beating the Niners. I’m not sure what PFT or anyone elses was seeing.

  98. ratsfoiledagain says: Jan 13, 2014 2:01 PM

    50-14 combined record of the four teams remaining.

    Whether you like or dislike any of the remaining teams, that’s some good football playing right there.

  99. dlk47823 says: Jan 13, 2014 2:13 PM

    Brady will actually have to throw the ball a bit to win in Denver. Tom and the Pats have not beaten a team with a winning record on the road (or neutral field) in more than 2 and a half years.
    Greatt @ home, very average on the road.

  100. urrealitycheck says: Jan 13, 2014 2:21 PM

    “JUST WIN BABY!!!”-Jim Harbaugh

  101. stanmrak says: Jan 13, 2014 2:21 PM

    The problem with playoffs!

    Don’t always get the best teams and the regular season becomes meaningless.

    They’ll ruin college football too if it gets out of hand.

  102. frostymugobeer says: Jan 13, 2014 2:57 PM

    GO BRONCOS !!!!
    Manning should finish his career with back 2 back championships like a BOSS !…..like HIS BOSS !!!!

  103. d0minate says: Jan 13, 2014 4:26 PM

    “I’d really like to see Tom Brady ask Richard Sherman if he’s mad when the Patriots win the Super Bowl.

    And I hate the Patriots.”

    You do realize that Richard Sherman never said that right? That was some photoshop work, and something someone tweeted out for fun.. obviously it generated so much hype that he just decided to own it.. but he never said it.

  104. 1historian says: Jan 13, 2014 4:28 PM

    FYI – I am a Pats fan.

    SF v. Hawks – haven’t decided yet. Don’t like either team or either coach, they seem to have gotten by without my approval. Go figure.

    N.E. v Bronks – Pats. If they win I’ll be here Monday a.m. arrogant and obnoxious as ever, which is what people expect of us. If we lose I’ll still show up to take my knocks, but I will ignore ignorant posts and only respond to those which show a modicum (we Pats fans like big words!) of intelligence.

  105. usdcoyotesfan says: Jan 13, 2014 8:43 PM

    I sure didn’t see Panthers fans crying about the refs in the Patriots game.

    Granted, NE deserved to be on the other end of a bad call for once, but still.

  106. axespray says: Jan 14, 2014 1:35 AM

    Could’ve spent on a 2nd round pick on Lacy/Bernard/La’Veon.

    Could of traded for Blount.

    Nope… throw away a 1st round pick for a stupid Browns player.

    A BROWNS player…
    oh… and over pay for a Packer Player (none offense).

  107. txnative61 says: Jan 14, 2014 3:35 AM

    Nice to see Marshawn Lynch get some good press—-have to say he’s my favorite player to watch run the ball. If Brady can again step back and feed Blount they have a chance against Denver. Everybody likes to talk about QB’s, but even great’s like Elway never won a SB without a great running back. Moreno and Gore are certainly great too. We’ll see who uses them best.

  108. uplate5301 says: Jan 14, 2014 3:17 PM

    Every one of these teams is fully capable of taking it all, and the fans from each think it will be their team that does it. 3 out of 4 of you will be wrong.

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