We finally made it! 21 long weeks of sitting on the couch every Sunday for 8-11 hours, eating all of our favorite fried foods and drinking our favorite alcohol, is finally about to pay off … by going to a huge party where there will be unlimited fried food and alcohol. Don’t question it. We deserve this.

I absolutely nailed my Championship Round picks by going 2-0, with spot on analysis. I would understand if you think I am some kind of betting savant. Because that means you probably simply didn’t read my other playoff picks columns. The perfect round brought my overall record to 5-4 (I tied the Broncos vs. Steelers game). The worst I can do is break even, but that is no fun. I want the glory.

Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers
Spread: CAR -5.5

Peyton Manning who? It is Cam Newton’s league now. Or at least it is for this season. But great defenses have a way of playing spoiler to fairy tale endings. And that is exactly what Denver has, the #1 ranked defense in the NFL. The one that turned the New England Patriots offensive line into a joke, leading to Bill Belichick firing his offensive line coach. But the challenge goes both ways. The Broncos will not be going after relatively stationary targets Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. Newton is bigger, stronger, and faster than many of the defensive ends and linebackers that will be chasing him. Newton vs. Denver’s front 7 will be a matchup that is truly fit for the biggest stage.

The Pick: Public money is pouring in on Carolina. The beat downs Carolina handed out to Seattle and Arizona are fresh in everyone’s mind. The memory of Denver getting crushed in the Super Bowl two years ago is also lingering. But this is not Peyton Manning’s Broncos like it was in 2014. This is a team with a dominant defense that has the ability to keep the Broncos in any game.

Take the Broncos plus the 5.5 points. This game is going to be a heavyweight slugfest, and I want the points.

By Michael Halpern
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com