It was another 2-2 week for yours truly in the divisional round, picking correctly the Seahawks and Broncos and incorrectly the Colts and Panthers. MDS swapped out the Pats for the Colts, and he’s picked up a one-game lead with three games left.
But there’s still hope. A week after picking the Pats, MDS has shunned them. I haven’t.
As to our pick in the NFC title game, we both agree. Which could be bad news for MDS. And for the team we both picked.
Patriots at Broncos
MDS’s take: There are a lot of reasons to think the Patriots can put a lot of points up on the Broncos. Key Denver defenders including Chris Harris, Von Miller, Derek Wolfe and Kevin Vickerson are injured and out. LeGarrette Blount’s emergence gives the Patriots a running threat that the Broncos will have a very tough time stopping. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are a good pair of targets for Tom Brady. I fully expect the Patriots to score four touchdowns. And yet I’m picking the Broncos because Peyton Manning has played the quarterback position better this season than anyone has ever played it before, and I expect him to have a very big game against New England’s defense. In a high-scoring game, the Broncos punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.
MDS’s pick: Broncos 37, Patriots 35.
Florio’s take: The easy narrative for this one, based on recent and more extended history, is that the Broncos will find a way to lose and the Patriots will find a way to win. Sometimes, the smart move is to stick with the easy narrative. (I otherwise don’t know much about smart moves.) Throw in the fact that Tom Brady believes no one will pick the Patriots, I’ll also partially pick them out of spite to win a game that could end up being an all-time epic. (Yes, I know I predicted a Broncos-Pats AFC title game in early September and at the time picked the Broncos to win. So basically I’m covered either way.)
Florio’s pick: Patriots 30, Broncos 27 (OT).
49ers at Seahawks
MDS’s take: The 49ers are playing better football now than they were back in Week Two, when the Seahawks blew them out in Seattle, and the 49ers beat the Seahawks in Week 14. And yet I can’t get past the fact that the 49ers have looked absolutely terrible in Seattle, losing there 29-3 in 2013 and 42-13 in 2012. The combination of a great Seahawks pass defense and a loud crowd in Seattle is going to make life miserable for Colin Kaepernick, which means San Francisco’s best chance is to win a low-scoring game. The 49ers’ defense is tough and physical, and they may be able to keep the score down. But not down far enough. With Marshawn Lynch leading the way, the Seahawks’ running game will sustain a couple of long drives, and that will be enough to secure a trip to the Super Bowl.
MDS’s pick: Seahawks 14, 49ers 6.
Florio’s take: Destiny awaits one of these teams. And I’m destined to get make the wrong pick. Family members know it; my kid suggested last night that I pick the 49ers, because he wants the Seahawks to win. Even though the Seahawks have blown out, sir the Niners during their last two games in Seattle, the 49ers have the feel of a team that understands the difference between the regular season and the postseason — and that can rise to the occasion. So I’m very, very, very tempted to pick San Francisco to return to the Super Bowl, and possibly to become the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to win the Super Bowl a year after losing it.
But the Seahawks have the offense and the defense and the motivation to qualify for a cross-country trip for a shot at their first-ever NFL title. Marshawn Lynch moves the chains, the 12th Man moves the earth, and Russell Wilson’s steady hand doesn’t move at all no matter the pressure or attention. Throw in a defense that can neutralize the 49ers’ weapons, and I’m picking the home team to hold serve.
Which should be good news for 49ers fans.
Florio’s pick: Seahawks 27, 49ers 17.