By Doug Halberstadt
The San Francisco 49ers will take on the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game this Sunday (Jan. 19). The Seahawks will have the home-field advantage. The winner will earn the right to meet the AFC champion in this year’s Super Bowl Feb. 2.
If the 49ers are going to make it to the Super Bowl, they’ll have to win their third-straight playoff game on the road. Two weeks ago, they traveled to Green Bay and slipped by the Packers 23-20 in the Wild Card game. Last week, they were in Charlotte, N.C., where they beat the Panthers 23-10 in the Divisional game.
The 49ers finished the regular season with a six-game winning streak and haven’t lost a game since the week before Thanksgiving. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is hoping his team’s streak can be extended for two more games and earn them their first Super Bowl title under his guidance.
The Seahawks have only lost one game in the last two seasons on their home field. Their famous “12th Man” is one of the reasons for their incredible success at home.
These two teams are NFC West Division rivals and played one another twice already this year during the regular season. Seattle dominated the 49ers in week two at home 29-3 and then suffered a 2-point (19-17) loss Dec. 8 in San Francisco.
Both offenses are led by young, mobile quarterbacks. In his two-year career with Seattle, Russell Wilson has thrown for 56 touchdowns and rushed for another five. Colin Kaepernick’s numbers are impressive as well. In his two full years as the signal-caller for San Francisco, he’s thrown for 31 touchdowns and added another nine rushing.
I think it’ll be great conference championship game between two talented teams. Both defenses have shown their bend-but-don’t-break philosophies. I really think the decisive factor in this game will be the home-field advantage for the Seahawks. The disruptive noise generated by the Seahawks’ fans will prove too much for the 49ers’ offense to overcome. I’m going with Seattle, 31-17.
Unlike the two young guns in the NFC game, the AFC Championship will feature two veteran Hall of Fame-bound quarterbacks facing off against one another. Tom Brady and his New England Patriots will travel to Denver to meet Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
This game has offense written all over it. In previous years, the Patriots were known for piling up points courtesy of Brady’s accurate passing arm. This year, New England has proclaimed they are a running team. Either way, they can pile up the points when needed.
Manning threw for more touchdowns than any other quarterback in the history of the NFL this season (55), and his team set a record for the most points scored in a season (606).
I’m a huge fan of Manning and have been since his days at the University of Tennessee. I’d really like to see them send the Patriots packing. It won’t be an easy task, but I believe the 2013 Broncos can get the job done. I’m going with Denver, 38-31.
Last week, I was 4-0 in the divisional games. Next week, I will reveal my pick and score for this year’s Super Bowl champion.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Jan. 15-21, 2014, issue