Before I get into the meat of today’s blog, I just want to say that in my last NFL blog, which was written prior to Wild Card Weekend, I accurately predicted everything that was going to happen so go me!
It’s Tuesday and the smoke has cleared. Four teams remain in the running for a place in Super Bowl 50 and next weekend, our Super bowl contestants will be revealed. Seattle, Green Bay, Kansas City and Pittsburgh all fell at the weekend and now we see the Arizona Cardinals travel to Charlotte to face the Carolina Panthers while New England are going up to a showdown against Denver at Mile High. Let’s delve into these matches.
NFC- Cardinals @ Panthers
The Cardinals only just managed to fend off a marauding Green Bay on Sunday. In something of a trademark for the Packers this season, an Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary pass in the dying seconds of the game forced overtime but it was eventually the Cardinals who came out on top. Meanwhile the Panthers held off the Seahawks with ease, going 31-0 at half time and shutting down a second half rally to win 31-24.
These teams last met in early 2015 at the 2014-15 Wild Card round, where Carolina came out victorious. However, that was a fourth seed Carolina with a 7-8-1 record shocking a fifth seed 11-5 Arizona. In this match-up, Arizona needs to accept they are facing a 16-1 top seed Carolina.
The Cardinals biggest strength is a short and medium passing offensive, led by Carson Palmer. The Cardinals like to take their time, working their way up the field with short to medium passes combined with fierce short gain running plays. This may prove useful as Carolina focuses its defence on limiting rushing gains. However, the Carolina offence, helmed by Cam Newton, is nigh on unstoppable, especially against a relatively lacklustre defence. The Panthers are relatively unpredictable on the offence, boosting a good range of short to medium gain running plays and medium gain passing plays.
Sunday proves to be an interesting day and all eyes will be on Charlotte, North Carolina.
My prediction: Carolina. I’d be surprised if Arizona won this but I would also be surprised if Carolina was held to a victory of anything more substantial than a touchdown or two..
AFC- New England @ Denver
New England managed to hold off the destructive pass rush of the Kansas City Chiefs to secure a showdown between them and Denver. Meanwhile, Big Ben and Pittsburgh were seen off by Denver, despite leading for most of the game. After a shaky season, Peyton Manning was back in the pocket and led Denver to host New England.
We are not looking at on-form Patriots. While they are winning matches they are not they destructive side they were earlier in the season. Meanwhile, the Broncos have Manning back and look determined to go all the way to the Super Bowl. The best bet for the Patriots is to keep Brady safe in the pocket and stretch Denver’s defence while moving the ball up the field in substantial chunks. Any attempt to stop-start play will just leave them caught up in a bitter battle with the Broncos defence. The Broncos should respond to this with concentrated blitzing and force Brady back or to panic throw.
The last time these titans of the AFC was earlier this season and the Broncos won in overtime and that was the first of the Patriots four defeats in the last six games of the season. The Patriots will certainly be wary of the Broncos
My Prediction: Too close to call. This game will be intense and bitter. It could go either way.