Well…we got what we wanted in one half of the league.
The Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals game should be phenomenal. These were probably the two best teams in the NFL and we will get to see them duke it out to go to the Super Bowl.
The New England Patriots and Denver Broncos doesn’t really intrigue me at all. I am frankly tired of seeing the Patriots, and the Broncos have to be one of the most boring teams to watch in the NFL.
I would be shocked if the Patriots struggled with the Broncos. Peyton Manning can barely throw the ball anymore. Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson don’t offer anything spectacular through the running game. The Broncos offensive line isn’t anything special. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are good, but with Manning’s regression, their passing attack is far less scary.
However, the Broncos have the NFL’s top ranked defense, though I think it will be minimized against the Patriots.
The Patriots live in the short pass game. They get the ball out quickly, so the Broncos pass rush will have a hard time making an impact in this game. The Broncos secondary is good too, but with Edelman healthy, they will still be able to hit short routes as extensions to the run game to move the football.
Rob Gronkowski offers a matchup nightmare. I wonder if the Broncos will deploy Aqib Talib on him, who has had success there before, or possibly Chris Harris Jr.
Regardless, I can’t see the Broncos offense doing much of anything, barring a comeback performance by Peyton Manning for the ages, and the Patriots offense should be able to move.
Patriots over the Broncos 27-13
The Panthers and Cardinals should be a much more entertaining game.
Cam Newton’s MVP year continues to roll on, but this should be his biggest test yet. The Cardinals will bring tons of pressure and they are so fast and athletic in the back that it will be really hard to hurt them.
One area where the Cardinals struggle is covering the tight end, so Greg Olsen will be needed to step up in a big way. The running game has to get going as well, because I just can’t see any of their wide receivers winning against the Cardinals secondary. If Cam Newton can escape some of the Cardinals pressure, I can see his legs playing a major role.
The Cardinals offense exploded this season. With a deep wide receiver core, a healthy and effective Carson Palmer, and the emergence of David Johnson, the Cardinal offense is a juggernaut.
However, this offense will meet it’s match. The Panthers play a physical brand of football and deploy a scheme that tricks quarterbacks into making mistakes. I can see this being a major factor in this game.
With the Panthers deploying some cover-2 traps, Carson Palmer better be on his game. If we see the Palmer from last week, this can be a really tough game for the Cardinals. The Panthers won’t drop interceptions like the Packers did. The Panthers are better schemed to create turnovers than the Packers are as well. Josh Norman will make it tough for whoever he defends.
Contrary to popular belief, the Panthers secondary isn’t amazing outside of Norman, but they are schemed well. If Palmer doesn’t take the bait and plays the brand of football we have seen from him for the majority of 2015, they should have some real success.
David Johnson will be a huge key for this game. He wasn’t great against the Packers, but if he can get going against the Panthers it would add a whole new element.
This one is hard to predict, but…