Panthers, Pats to play for Super Bowl

By Steve Sell
January 22, 2016

I went down with the ship last week.

I had clung to the Seattle Seahawks winning the Super Bowl like a dog to a meaty bone.

But in one of the worst first halves in their history, they were totally blown away 31-0 by Carolina last week before putting up a second-half fight to lose by only seven points.

It’s the only miss I’ve had during the eight-game playoffs. Apparently the playoff system must be working this year, as we have the No. 1 and 2 seeds playing for the NFC’s Super Bowl berth, while it’s the same on the AFC’s side.

These are championship matchups where I have no skin in the game. I really have little fondness of any of the teams, though Denver is a somewhat regional favorite.

Here’s how I see it:

• Carolina 28, Arizona 21 — Why I should be a believer in the Panthers played out in the first half last week against Seattle. Why I’m a doubter in the Panthers is how they took their foot off the gas in the second half and nearly had an epic collapse.

If I had a vesting interest in a team, I’d like the Cardinals. I’m a big fan of coach Bruce Arians as I think he’s one of the five best in the business.

I have worries, though, the Cardinals won’t be able to run the ball and quarterback Carson Palmer isn’t the most mobile guy in the world. This is a game where home field is going to make a big difference.

• New England 27, Denver 24 — Call this the Hall of Fame Game. Old war horses Tom Brady and Peyton Manning clash for what seems like the umpteenth time.

Brady was razor-sharp last week against Kansas City, which never put a hand on him which is one reason he was so successful. Denver will provide a better pass rush.

Manning looked pedestrian against Pittsburgh. He did receive some help from his running game, but I’m not sure he’s got enough zip left to put this team on his back and win a game.

It’s always tough to win on the road, but Denver just hasn’t looked like Denver in recent weeks.