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Commentary: Patriots, Seahawks will play for Super Bowl

by BENJAMIN HOFFMAN New York Times News Service on January 19, 2014 1:58 AM

In Tom Brady’s first start in the NFL, he defeated Peyton Manning.

Brady has continued to be a thorn in Manning’s side, compiling a 10-4 record (2-1 in the postseason) against him. The gesticulating Manning now leads the record-setting Denver offense, but like so many of his past teams, this one is overhyped because of a great offense masking a mediocre defense.

One key to Brady’s confidence, other than his good looks, his large bank account, his Hall of Fame-worthy career and his supermodel wife, is the sudden emergence of a dominant New England running game. LeGarrette Blount, known mostly for ending his career at Oregon prematurely by punching an opponent, has become the type of runner that Patriots offenses have frequently lacked.

The last time Brady and Manning met for the AFC championship, in the 2006 season, Manning and the Colts won in Indianapolis. Now Manning and the Broncos are favored because their offense has been loaded since Day One and the Patriots have had to cobble one together.

The game is in Denver, and New England has been a mediocre road team. In almost every way, it looks like a season to remember for Manning and one to forget for Brady.

But Brady relishes the chance to be an underdog.

“I’m sure no one’s going to pick us to win,” Brady told reporters.

He was wrong.

Line: Broncos by 6;

Pick: Patriots.

 

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman is a legitimate contender for defensive player of the year, and he can also find the essence of a game in a few words.

“Long story short: They know us, we know them,” Bowman said of the rival Seahawks. “We all know the history. But this is the Super Bowl.”

The Broncos or the Patriots will make an interesting Super Bowl opponent, but in a face-off reminiscent of the great 49ers-Cowboys postseason matchups of the early 1990s, the two most complete teams in the NFL will be playing for the NFC championship.

The similarities between the 49ers and the Seahawks have been noted time and again: bruising running backs, suffocating defenses, brash coaches. Recent history has favored whichever team is at home.

With that in mind, playing in Seattle is a large hurdle for San Francisco to overcome. In their last two meetings there, the Seahawks have beaten the 49ers by a combined score of 71-16.

Line: Seahawks by 4.

Pick: Seahawks.

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AFC CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHUPS
January 19, 2014 1:55 AM
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