The last time these two teams faced off was in last years Wild Card round. The Carolina Panthers were the underdog team entering the game and they defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-16. This time around the Cardinals are the underdog.
Of course the last time these two teams played Carson Palmer was not dressed in a uniform for the game because Palmer tore his ACL during a regular season game against the St. Louis Rams. Ryan Lindley was under center for this playoff game. With Cam Newton and Carson Palmer being the first Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks to go head to head in a playoff game, this is definitely going to make for an exciting Sunday NFC Championship game.
What Does Each Team Need To do To Win?
The Panthers as you all know were looking to make history until that week 16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Cam Newton is the MVP in my eyes, but this team needs to do just one thing in order to win, finish. The Panthers scored 31 points in the first half last weekend against the Seattle Seahawks, but 0 points in the entire second half. That can't happen this Sunday in order for this team to advance to Super Bowl 50 and Cam Newton even said that. If the Panthers can just play the way they have been playing and finish in the end, they won't have any problem at all dabbing their way to Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California.
The Arizona Cardinals survived a near comeback from Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last weekend, but now it's time to shake that off. I believe Carson Palmer got all the jitters out of his system, which means he is going to play his heart out. In order for Arizona to win, Palmer must throw 2 touchdown passes and have 0 turnovers. If Palmer can just be good enough for his defense to take over in the final quarter, they will win this game.
X-Factor (Panthers) - Cam Newton
X-Factor (Cardinals) - David Johnson
My Pick: Cardinals 27 - Panthers 23
It may be the Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots on Sunday and that may be exactly what Tom Brady and Peyton Manning say it is, but everyone knows it's another Manning vs. Brady classic. Even though Brady holds the record of 11-5 against Manning, every time these two have played in the playoffs the home team comes out on top. So why are we even discussing this? Manning and the Broncos are at home which means they should win, right?
What Does Each Team Need To do To Win?
The Broncos have the advantage in this game that is huge in the Manning vs. Brady rivalry, the fact they are the home team. The thing is Manning doesn't have to win this game for the Broncos, he just needs to be the on the field game manager he has been so great at this season. The defense led by former Dallas Cowboy DeMarcus Ware has been outstanding all season. The running game Coach Gary Kubiak brought to Denver has been the best thing for Manning's career. Manning just doesn't have to sit back and pick apart defenses anymore, he just needs to have 0 turnovers and make the plays, when plays need to be made. The Broncos need to hold Tom Brady in check and the running game is what will win this game. Denver needs to run the ball down the Patriots throats and that's when the Broncos will win this game. But the hardest thing to do in any level of sports is to beat a team twice in one season.
New England Patriots
It's a simple explanation, Tom Brady is still playing at an elite level and that's why this team is so good. Brady has played games this season with almost a new offensive lineman every week it feels like and with a new wide receiver in the game. Health has been the biggest problem for the Patriots this season and they still are recovering. The Patriots just have to play Patriot football and Brady needs to out play this Denver defense and then they will win this ball game.
My gut is telling me this one. I just would love to see Peyton Manning go out on top.
X-Factor (Broncos) - Von Miller
X-Factor (Patriots) - Tom Brady
My Pick: Broncos 27 - Patriots 26
Everyone enjoy the game Sunday because it will probably be for the last time, so in memory here is a video of the greatest game of all time that took place in the Manning vs. Brady rivalry.
To top off the list, the 2006 AFC Championship was not only a memorable Manning vs. Brady matchup but one of the greatest games of all time. Subscribe to the NFL YouTube channel to see immediate in-game highlights from your favorite teams and players, daily fantasy football updates, all your favorite NFL Network podcasts, and more!
Is it Too Late For Dallas to Fire OC Scott Linehan?
Grab your pitchforks and your torches, it's time to run the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan out of town. His playcalling has been absolutely atrocious season and it's time for him to hit the road, even if there are only two regular-season games left on the schedule.
It's completely unorthodox for an NFL team to fire an offensive coordinator this late in the season, but just last week we saw the Minnesota Vikings do just that when they parted ways with John DeFilippo. It was definitely a bold move to make considering the Vikings are still in playoff contention, but it was something they believed was in the best interest of their team.
I believe if the Dallas Cowboys want to do what's best for their team right now and not later, then they should go ahead and cut ties with Scott Linehan. His predictability and un-creativeness as a play caller is holding back a talented offense, which is hurting the overall team as a result. He's been given every opportunity to turn things around, but enough is enough.
I'd personally be on board with Jason Garrett taking over the playcalling duties. He has the experience and held the position with the Cowboys from 2007 until Linehan was hired. I'd even consider giving Kellen Moore a shot as the OC. He knows the system and has worked closely with Quarterback Dak Prescott. Regardless, the Cowboys need to find some way to increase their offensive productivity.
Right now the Cowboys offense is the 26th scoring offense in the NFL and are averaging just 19.7 points per game. To make matters worse they are the 31st ranked Red Zone offense in the league. I don't know about you, but I think that is completely unacceptable with the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball.
Firing Linehan has been a long time coming. The Cowboys flirted with the idea earlier this season during the bye week and should've pulled the trigger then, but for some reason or another decided to let him stick around. They are definitely still paying for that mistake now.
The Cowboys mistake not to replace Linehan could mean yet another early exit in the playoffs, something we have unfortunately become accustomed to. Scoring just 19 points a game isn't going to get them very far, which is truly unfortunate considering the talent they've acquired this season.
Unfortunately, as much as we would love to see Scott Linehan tarred and feathered and run out of town, I just don't see the Cowboys doing that before their season is officially over. But, in no way should he be allowed to retain his position beyond this season. He clearly isn't the answer any longer.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys should fire Scott Linehan?
Despite Embarrassing Showing, Health Remains Biggest Cowboys Concern
What is it about the AFC South with these Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas' five game winning streak came to a close on Sunday, as they got straight-up embarrassed by the now 8-6 Indianapolis Colts on the road. The loss was the first since the Cowboys were embarrassed by a different AFC South competitor, the Tennessee Titans, on Monday night football earlier this season.
Though the final was 23-0, and not a single phase (or really even a single player) showed much fight or promise, the biggest concern I have for the Cowboys moving forward didn't change because of the putrid performance. It didn't change because the defense was gashed play after play or the offense failed to finish a single drive. And it didn't even change because both the Redskins and Eagles secured season-saving victories on the same day Dallas was dismantled.
The biggest concern is still their health, particularly across the offensive line.
That was not a playoff caliber interior offensive line the Cowboys put out their on Sunday. Not even close.
With their backup center in Joe Looney, backup guard in Connor Williams, and the very last interior offensive linemen on their roster in Adam Redmond playing for basically the entire game, this offense never had a chance. Dak Prescott wasn't any more inaccurate or indecisive than normal, but all those who like to scream "step up in the pocket" whenever he is sacked did not seem to have an argument this week.
There often was no pocket to step into, as those interior three, specifically Looney and Redmond, failed to provide much protection or confidence for Prescott at all. Joe Looney has actually been rather solid this season, but Sunday felt like one of his worst games of the entire year.
The Cowboys absolutely need Zack Martin to get healthy if they are to make any noise whatsoever in the postseason. At the very least, the need Xavier Su'a-Filo to come back and replace Redmond, and regain the form he displayed during his debut against the Eagles back in November.
Prescott already has issues with his pocket presence and footwork when pressured, so throwing three backup-level linemen right in front of him is not a recipe for success for the Cowboys.
I'm not jumping out of the window over this loss, and I don't think any of you should be either. Dallas had won three straight incredibly emotional and important home games to extend, save, and solidify their season respectively before this loss. They had also just about clinched the NFC East a week ago with their win over Philadelphia, and they played like a team that was due a flat performance
A letdown loss on the road, against a good team I might add, is not the end of the world. The bigger issue here is their health, because if Martin can return to anchor this offensive line, the offense should look a whole lot better than they did against Indianapolis.
It's time to move on from Sunday, go beat Tampa Bay, officially clinch the division, and get ready for Wild Card Weekend.
Where In The World Is DE Taco Charlton?
Over pretty much the last decade, the Dallas Cowboys have been rock solid with their first round picks. With selections of Ezekiel Elliott, Travis Frederick, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Leighton Vander Esch (just to name a handful), Dallas has rebuilt the core of their roster through the NFL Draft.
It's nearly impossible to bat .1000 in any round of the draft, however, and this appears to be the current case with the Cowboys' 2017 first round pick.
Defensive end Taco Charlton has not had the sophomore season that he, or anyone, had hoped for. A healthy scratch last Sunday, Charlton has only been active for 1 of the Cowboys' last 5 games, and has not recorded a sack or tackle since week 9.
Prior to disappearing with injuries and "attitude issues," Charlton had only recorded 1 sack on the season and was beginning to fall behind his Hot Boy-brethren. Defensive end Randy Gregory has reached his form over the last few weeks, Tyrone Crawford is having arguably a career year, and DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best ends in all of football.
This doesn't leave much room for Charlton, who's now having issues even getting on the gameday roster. Rod Marinelli dodged questions about Taco Charlton earlier this week, vaguely saying they are "moving forward" and that he'd like to talk about other players on his defensive line who are performing.
Rod Marinelli on Taco Charlton's benching and being inactive last week: "We just keep moving along keep going forward. It's kinda been out there I'd leave it at that. I'd rather talk about our two tackles.
Charlton has not been quiet about his displeasure as of late, either. He's taken to Twitter to voice his frustrations, saying that not only is his shoulder fine but that the Dallas media is making up stories about his absence. He's also posted some cryptic tweets such as this one, with a picture of Allen Iverson and a caption reading "Every players needs that one coach to believe in them."
Maybe Taco is right. Maybe he just needs increased opportunity and a support system/coach that believes in him whole-heartedly. After all, Charlton has faced nothing but doubters and detractors since the second he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
But in the NFL, the ultimate "what have you done for me lately" sport, it's hard to imagine he'll get that unwavering support anywhere in the league. He's going to have to "earn" his playing time, as head coach Jason Garrett spoke to earlier in the week. But with the plethora of talent the Cowboys are already putting out there on the defensive line, it's becoming difficult to see exactly where Taco Charlton can fit in on this defense.
It's possible, and fine, if it is simply not a fit between Charlton and the Cowboys at this point. But I'd also be wary of giving up on your first round pick in just his second NFL season. Another offseason with the team, working on his craft and getting fully healthy, should do Charlton wonders, and hopefully allow us to get a better read on his future with the Cowboys going forward.
Until then, we are all left to scratch out heads and wonder what in the world is going on with the Cowboys and Taco Charlton, and if the former first round pick will have a future in Dallas at all.
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