Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, January 20, 2014 at 8:58 AM
THE AFC & NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME RE-CAPS – HERE’S THE MAJOR REASONS WHY THE BRONCOS & SEAHAWKS ARE SET TO HAVE A BIG APPLE SHOWDOWN COME SB 48
By Jim Hurley
Okay, so Super Bowl XLVIII is set and even the early-bird bettors/books have found it difficult to say who should be favored to win.
After all, the game bounced ‘round a bit late Sunday night with one Las Vegas hotel listing Seattle as a 1-point favorite while yet another hotel had Denver listed as a 3-point betting choice.
Maybe the head-to-head matchup of Seahawks (15-3) vs. Broncos (15-3) didn’t really surprise anyone when you considered the two teams were among the top four favorites to win it all this year way back in August – that’s when Denver was a 4-to-1 choice to cop SB 48 while Seattle was a 7-to-1 choice with only New England (5.5-to-1) and San Francisco (4.5-to-1) offering up solid alternatives but consider this:
The Broncos’ scoring offense was ranked #1 in the NFL in the 2013 season while the Seahawks’ scoring defense ranked #1, and thus this will be the first time since Buffalo Bills vs. New York Giants – a/ka/a “Wide Right” – back in the 1990 campaign that we’ve had the top units squaring off against one another in a Super Bowl and only the fifth time in Super Bowl history that’s been the case.
It’s also only the third time since the 1993 season that the #1 seeds in both the AFC and the NFC made it to the Super Bowl and so you can see why – among other reasons – the good folks in Las Vegas believe more money will be wagered on this tilt than any other football game … and it doesn’t hurt ticket price values either that a chap named Peyton Manning will be part of the action.
In case you were wondering, the cheapest seat at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey for Sunday Bowl XLVIII on Sunday, February 2nd is now listed at $2,525 … buddy, can you spare a dime?
We’ll have plenty of time (of course) to dissect SB 48 in the coming days right here at "Jim Sez" plus we’ll be sprinkling in lots of Basketball News/Notes too in the weeks ahead and we’ll analyze what exactly were the keys to the AFC and NFC Championship Games in just a moment but first this key reminder:
Jim Hurley will have the Sides & Totals Winners of Super Bowl XLVIII when you check with us on game-day morning plus go ahead and continue to pile up the profits all this week with loads of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online at www.vegassportsmasters.com or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155 – go ahead and pound the books today!
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
DENVER 26, NEW ENGLAND 16 – No doubt that Manning’s place in Canton has long been secured, and if anyone needed a Hall of Fame “signature game” than no need to look anywhere but right here.
Okay, so Manning – who threw for 400 yards with two TDs and 0 INTs – had supreme pass protection all game long as he was never sacked and hurried just once or twice, but it was that oft-celebrated cerebral part of Manning’s game that was on display here.
Heck, Manning should be offended by one wire service report that claimed he “dinked-and-dunked” his way to the winner’s circle here as he did plenty more than that with razor-sharp passes to eight different receivers, plus he discovered every possible mismatch that could be found with the major key – of course – coming when New England CB Aqib Talib went down with rib and knee injuries early in the game.
Manning not only unleashed WR Demaryius Thomas (a team-leading 134 yards receiving on 7 catches) on an unsuspecting CB Alfonzo Dennard for much of the time, but he also carved up the Pats’ slow-to-react linebackers who were beaten badly in short-to-medium range chucks that served to chew up clock/yards and keep Patriots’ QB Tom Brady (a rather hollow 277 yards passing) off the field.
The irony here is that a pair of Broncos touchdown drives -- ones covering 93 and 80 yards – ate up seven-plus minutes on the play clock and they proved to be the two longest time-wise scoring drives all year long for a quick-strike Broncos bunch that actually scored more points than anyone in league history.
Still, the 26 points here allowed the Broncos a “comfortable win” in their first AFC Championship Game since 2005 and – as we reminded "Jim Sez" readers in our previews late last week – Denver’s pass-catchers had to show they could hang onto the ball after a slew of drops in that 24-17 non-cover win against San Diego in the AFC Divisional Playoff round.
And they did.
The likes of WRs Eric Decker (5 catches for 73 yards) and WR Wes Welker (4 catches for 38 yards) were glue-fingered lads this time, and TE Julius Thomas (8 catches for 85 yards) showed he’s now very much trusted in Manning’s world of spread-the-wealth football.
Talk about getting into a rhythm as Manning had it and ditto those much-involved pass-grabbers.
Still, the Broncos were aided-and-abetted here by some shaky Brady chucks too – that first-quarter bomb that was thrown 10 yards over the head of WR Julian Edelman showed it wasn’t gonna be the Patriots’ day and the fact New England had the ball for just 56 offensive snaps (they usually have it 75 snaps, give-or-take) truly haunted Bill Belichick’s team that also didn’t get down key line-of-scrimmage blocks against the likes of active D-lineman Terrance Knighton (“Pot Roast” to his friends).
And how about these somewhat “lost stats”:
The Broncos punted the ball only once in this double-digit win (they never punted at all last week against the Chargers) and Denver somehow managed to win/cover the 5-point price here even though Manning and Company only scored two TDs on six red-zone trips.
Hey, still, that’s a lot of red-zone trips against a Belichick-coached defense, right?
THE AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES – PAST 10 YEARS
Here’s the most recent AFC Championship Game winners and note all home teams in CAPS below:
|2013||DENVER||- 5||New England||26-16|
|2012||Baltimore||+ 8||NEW ENGLAND||28-13|
|2011||NEW ENGLAND||- 7||Baltimore||23-20|
|2010||PITTSBURGH||- 4||NY Jets||24-19|
|2007||NEW ENGLAND||- 14||San Diego||21-12|
|2006||INDIANAPOLIS||- 3||New England||38-34|
|2004||New England||- 3||PITTSBURGH||41-27|
Jim Hurley's 29th ANNUAL
Hurley starts the Playoffs 8-4-1
Including Broncos (-5.5) winning AFC Title
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NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
SEATTLE 23, SAN FRANCISCO 17 – Know what?
You can blabber on and on about the Seahawks’ “12th Man” and the “Legion of Boom” defense all you want.
And you can point out how defense – eventually – won this NFC title tilt for top-seeded Seattle with loud-mouth CB Richard Sherman tipping the last-minute QB Colin Kaepernick end-zone pass into the arms of LB Malcolm Smith, but the truth of the matter is it was a big-play offense (one that scored 20 second-half points) that swayed the momentum in this slugfest in the great Northwest – and maybe that’s the best thing about this “W” for the ‘Hawks.
After all, when Seattle stared at a 10-0 second-quarter deficit you did have to wonder if an offense that was held to 23 points or less on eight different occasions this season could get “mission accomplished” and beat a seasoned San Francisco team that entered this game with more “momentum” than any of the four championship game teams.
The rock-and-rolling 40-yard touchdown run by RB Marshawn Lynch was typical highlight reel material, and that QB Russell Wilson-to-WR Jermaine Kearse 35-yard scoring play (yes, a “free play” in which the 49ers were flagged for being offside) was pretty special stuff, but in reality it showed that the Seahawks have the capabilities of coming back from a twin-figure deficit against a very good team, but a SF squad that we contend really lost its edge in the second half after having played its three previous games on the road: At Arizona in Week 17 of regular-season play, at Green Bay in the NFC Wild Card round and at Carolina in the NFC Divisional Playoff round.
Seattle – to be sure – was far from perfect here with a few botched handoffs, that fourth-and-goal blunder that immediately followed the ugly injury to Niners’ LB NaVorro Bowman and some shoddy tackling against run-happy Kaepernick who shredded the Seahawks for a game-high 130 yards rushing on just 11 carries.
Still, Kaepernick threw a brutally bad interception to Seattle DB Cam Chancellor at 20-17 in Seattle’s favor and the Niners’ slinger should get criticized for that aforementioned tipped-pick by Sherman/Smith on a first-down play from the 18-yard line with 30 seconds left and with San Fran still holding onto a time out.
Hey, count us among the folks that believe San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh dangerously danced around with his time outs late as he – subconsciously – might have put Kaepernick under the gun a bit too much by letting so much clock tick down there and maybe the 49ers’ quarterback thought he better get it done ASAP … who knows?
Still, you don’t throw such a dicey pass on first down and – gotta say – that’s now two years in a row where the Niners did not score in the enemy red zone in the final moments as everyone recalls what happened with four missed plays inside the Baltimore 10-yard line late in last year’s Super Bowl.
So, there’s certainly criticism to be slung around for Kaepernick and for Harbaugh and even for a Niners defense that forced just one turnover (the early-game Wilson fumble on a scramble) but gotta admit the 49ers – at times – were royally screwed by the officials that may even have gotten a tad intimidated by that wild CenturyLink crowd.
In the end, the Seahawks proved they could answer the second-half bell – the Niners (at least on defense) got a little wobbly in the knees.
Survive and advance to NYC, guys … start spreading the news indeed!
THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES – PAST 10 YEARS
|2013||SEATTLE||- 3.5||San Francisco||23-17|
|2012||San Francisco||- 4||ATLANTA||28-24|
|2011||NY Giants||+ 2||SAN FRANCISCO||20-17 OT|
|2010||Green Bay||- 3.5||CHICAGO||21-14|
|2009||NEW ORLEANS||- 4||Minnesota||31-28 OT|
|2007||NY Giants||+ 8||GREEN BAY||23-20 OT|
|2006||CHICAGO||- 2.5||New Orleans||34-14|
NFL CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM SPREAD STANDINGS
Here’s a quickie look at the NFL Pointspread Standings for this year including just the four teams that played in Sunday’s NFL Championship Games:
NOTE: Catch our Super Bowl XLVIII News & Notes all this week plus get some NCAA Basketball Mid-Week Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez.