Here Are Our 2016 NFL Conference Championship Weekend Picks Against The Spread
Last week we asked for better football and we got it. Everyone game was very watchable and we even had a couple great contests. The Packers/Cardinals game was quite great even if I’m annoyed that the Aaron Rodgers double Hail Mary followed by Larry Fitzgerald overtime takeover ruined a Cardinals push and turned it into a Packers +7 winning ticket. The late Pittsburgh fumble helped push Denver into another home game, but we thought Pittsburgh had a comeback in them until they didn’t. The other two games at least provided six hours of quality entertainment, which was more than we can say about the Wild Card round.
Now we’re into Conference Championship weekend and the match-ups couldn’t be better. We just need to hope Arizona’s plane makes it to Charlotte in this whole blizzard thing. And we need to hope that the power doesn’t go out in the northeast so I can enjoy my specially ordered Pig of the Month barbecue delivery without any hiccups. We all have our priorities.
Locks of the Week:
New England -3.5 over DENVER
This is being billed as Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady in their likely last hurrah against each other, but we all know that’s not the case. It’s Tom Brady against the #1 ranked defense in the league and the Broncos running game against Bill Bellichick. Manning was ok last week on the surface, but no one is writing home about 22 for 37 with 222 yards and no touchdowns. At least he didn’t throw any interceptions and did what he had to do on Denver’s final scoring drive. Unfortunately for him and the Broncos, New England’s pass defense isn’t as much of a pushover as Pittsburgh’s.
We all need to remember New England was up 21-7 in Denver without Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola when they lost Dont’a Hightower and Rob Gronkowski. It also didn’t help that the Patriots muffed a punt early in the 4th quarter that led to the Broncos second touchdown. That wouldn’t have happened if Amendola had been playing. (Although maybe one of Denver’s gunners would’ve been knocked unconscious by Amendola if he had been returning the punt…) This vaunted Broncos defense has given up points at times this season, specifically to Kansas City, New England, and Pittsburgh. It’s also now dealing with a banged up Chris Harris as their slot corner. Patriots 24. Broncos 17. Let’s move on to the late game.
J.Camm’s Pick: New England (and possibly Peyton Manning dying on the field)
Six Point Teaser: NE/DEN Under & ARI/CAR Over
The second lock this week is a teaser combo of both point totals. I already mentioned what I think the score will be in Denver. Teasing the Under to 50.5 makes me feel really good. We’ll get to where I see the late game going in a second, but the general comment is both secondaries are vulnerable. Making the number 42.5 makes it very appealing. Lock it in.
Rest of the Picks:
CAROLINA -3 over Arizona
I’m looking forward to this game more than the early one and it’s partly because I don’t want anything to do with Peyton Manning in another Super Bowl. I want this Super Bowl to be great and New England vs. either of these teams will be quite grand. In the NFC contest we have the 2nd and 3rd ranked defenses in the league, so you’re probably wonder why I think the game will be high scoring. Arizona’s ranked 4th offensively and Carolina’s ranked 8th. It’s a strength on strength situation for both teams, so you need to look at things a little more closely.
Both teams have suffered injuries to key players in the secondary leaving them with major holes. I’m still not sure how Carolina continually scores points with their receiving core, but they keep getting it done. Last weekend’s first half against Seattle was run-heavy and Cam did what he had to when it mattered. Greg Olsen should see some success against Arizona, since they were around league average at defending tight ends. Newton will do the rest and somehow his receivers will continue to get things done against everyone except Patrick Peterson. And before you say, “well Jeff Janis killed Arizona, so anyone on Carolina can,” just know that Jeff Janis was a phenomenon on Twitter before last week. (Look up Janis’ comparable and you’ll see why.) But the truth is Teddy Bridgewater and Andy Dalton moved the ball on Arizona. Cam Newton will be just fine.
The issue for Carolina is on the flip side. They’re secondary doesn’t have much outside of Josh Norman in terms of coverage. Malcom Floyd will likely see Norman on the outside and Injuries have left Carolina struggling to figure out who will cover Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown this weekend. It’s a real problem. Carolina at least has the defense to keep David Johnson in check, both in run and pass-catching situations.
The thing holding me back most on going with Arizona in this one is Carson Palmer. Palmer last week looked like a guy who had never won a playoff game before. He made awful decisions that a veteran quarterback shouldn’t make and this week he plays a better defense. He’s going to make a big mistake. Panthers 28. Cardinals 24. Let’s get ready for a great Super Bowl.
J.Camm’s Pick: Arizona
Last Week: 2-2