The NFL Championship Round kicks off this Sunday, matching up the 1 vs. 2 seeds from each conference. I got back on track last week by going 2-1 in the Divisional Round, tying my Pittsburgh Steelers pick. That puts my overall record at 3-4, as I look to climb above the .500 mark.
Denver: Brady vs. Manning! Kind of. Peyton Manning is a shell of his former self, but he still has the beautiful football mind to make enough plays to win. It will once again be Denver’s ground attack and #1 ranked defense that will need to carry this team.
New England: Tom Brady is still in top form, leading New England to the AFC Championship game for the 5th year in a row. By losing to the Miami Dolphins in Week 17, though, New England handed home field advantage to Denver. They will now be forced to fly cross-country, into the thin air of Denver, if they want to return to the Super Bowl.
The Pick: Take Denver plus the points. They are playing at home, have the best defense in football, and getting the 3 points is just gravy.
Carolina: People still do not get it. Carolina is the class of the NFL this season. They needed to play full throttle for only one half last week in order to beat the Seattle Seahawks. They are healthy, having fun, and it will take a herculean effort to beat them at home.
Arizona: If anybody is up to the challenge of taking Carolina down, it is Arizona. They have the #1 ranked offense and #5 ranked defense in the league. They are coming off a hard fought victory against the Green Bay Packers last week, in a game that became an instant classic. But Arizona will have to play much better this week if they plan on knocking Carolina off.
The Pick: Keep riding Carolina and be glad you only have to give 3 points.
By Michael Halpern