Tuesday 24 October 2017 / 04:44 PM

Countdown to Conference Championships

Whether it’s NFL officiating or the infamous McDonald’s “pink slime” (LMGTFY), conspiracy theorists love to let the world know that things aren’t always exactly as they seem.

So when two consecutive Dallas Cowboys playoff games were decided by controversial calls by the referees, it stands to reason that a nutter or two would take to the Twittersphere to insinuate that professional football is no more legitimate than professional wrestling.

But guess what? The NFL is not rigged – and the proof is in the pudding.

If the powers that be were truly pulling strings behind the scenes there’s simply no way they’d let their Golden Boy retire without being fitted for one more ring … unless, of course, the league is grooming Andrew Luck to audition for the role? Hmmm.

Conspiracy or no conspiracy, Peyton is out while Andrew, Aaron, Russell & Tom remain in the running to lead their respective teams to Super Bowl glory.

No boring scenarios

Some Super Bowl match-ups are sexier than others. Fortunately, no matter who wins this weekend, fans will be in for a good one in Phoenix.

It won’t be like Super Bowl XX. 

Remember that one? When the Tony Eason led Patriots were steamrolled by this guy?

 

A photo posted by uofoklahoma (@uofoklahoma) on

 

No, not the “Boz” – the other guy.

There wasn’t a soul in 1985 who couldn’t see that game turning into a blowout. The final score was 46-10 and it got so bad that at one point Defensive Lineman William “The Refrigerator” Perry lined up as a fullback and scored a rushing TD from 1 yard out.

Nope. For the third year in a row, fans will be treated to a juicy Title Game.

Last season we got the #1 Offense versus the #1 Defense and the year before that we had the Harbaugh Bowl.

Let’s take a look at the four potential Super Bowl match-ups and pinpoint why they would be intriguing.

1. Seattle – New England

Tom Brady is the type of player to let losses roll down his back like water off a duck – but there’s no way in hell dude’s forgot about the last time he played against the Seahawks.

“You Mad Bro?”

Hell yes he was mad … and Tom would love to get a crack at shutting up #25 in front of 70,000 screaming 12’s.

2. Indianapolis – Green Bay

Two teams with the top gunslingers in the game. Shaky defenses on both sides could lead this Super Bowl scenario to end as the highest scoring affair of all time.

It could be dubbed The Neck Beard vs. The Mustache.

3. Seattle – Indianapolis

Remember when Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson were both in the running for Rookie of the Year?

With RGIII struggling to get his career on track, this game could determine which rising QB from the 2012 Draft is better primed to become the premier signal caller of his generation.

4. New England – Green Bay

Brady vs. Rodgers. Enough said.

Even as a diehard Seahawks fan I’m drooling over this possibility.

***

So yeah, come hell or high water, there will be an Instant Classic brewing in Super Bowl XLIX.

Let’s take a look at what each team needs to do to get there.

Luck snapped “The Torch”right out of Manning’s gloves – can he use that flame to burn Brady?

It’s not every day that an up-and-coming star gets the chance to eliminate two of the greatest players of all time at his position in back-to-back weeks. To oust Brady on the road in New England, Mr. Luck will need to protect the football.

In Denver, Andrew got away with a pair of interceptions – but only because Peyton Manning looked more like a has-been than a Hall-of-Fame shoe-in. Tom Brady is far too consistent in the postseason to offer the same kind of cushion, particularly when Indy’s defense is far from elite.

It also wouldn’t hurt for the Colts to rely more than usual on the run game. Last week the Pats’ defense struggled to contain Justin Forsett, who rushed for 129 yards on just 24 carries and Dan Herron has been a beast for a total no-namer.

Indianapolis needs to come to play for four full quarters. The last two times this team visited Foxborough they hung within a single score for the first 45 minutes, only to lose handedly by the time the clock ticked down to double zero.

One good thing: win or lose, we can expect some sort of shenanigans from the Colts owner over the weekend. Awesome.

 Can the Pats Defense do what the Broncos couldn’t?

Zero.

That’s the number of times Andrew Luck was hit last weekend in Denver. Not sacks – hits full stop.

Any quarterback (well, perhaps not Ryan Lindley) will make you pay if you give him enough time to throw. So the equation is simple: Get to Luck = get Interceptions

I don’t see New England’s offense having too much trouble getting 20+ points on the board at home against the Colts, so this game comes down to forcing Andrew Luck to make mistakes and not giving him a chance to stage a heroic comeback in the second half.

Is Tom Brady ready to take his unique fashion sense to Super Bowl XLIX?

 Re-Pete? Sea-Peat? Are the Hawks ready to cement their dynasty?

If Russell Wilson and the Seahawks find a way to win back-to-back Super Bowls, there will be a lot more on the line than breaking the decade-long streak of no championship repeats. Win it all again and this squad will take their rightful place as one of the greatest teams of all time.

I’m not going to waste my time digging up nifty statistics to illuminate Seattle’s dominance right now on D. All you’ve got to do is watch these guys play and it’s plain to see they’re doing defense at a level never before seen.

Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. All these guys have the ability to take over games. That’s seven out of 11 players!

If the defense holds suit against Rodgers and Beast Mode gets rolling against the Packers’ front seven, the Hawks will be punching their ticket to the desert.

Kam Chancellor in particular will be one to watch – you know, the guy Richard Sherman said is a monster who “destroys people’s souls”.

 

A photo posted by Seattle Seahawks (@seahawks) on

 

Will the Packers avenge the Week One debacle at Centurylink Field?

Aaron Rodgers was the best player at his position all season long, but his nagging calf injury could seriously limit his ability to attack the league’s scariest defensive unit, a unit which includes a D-line that gets after the quarterback much more than the media gives them credit for.

The Packers’ O-line can work wonders for their QB if they provide ample protection to allow Rodgers to stay in the pocket. He’ll be less affected by his injury the less he is forced to scramble and throw on the run.

The last time these two teams met, the Packers’ Field Marshall opted to throw at Richard Sherman a grand total of zero times. He insists that he’s not scared at all to go in Sherman’s direction, so this will be a match-up worth keeping an eye on.

For all his smack talk, the Hawks’ star cornerback has nothing but respect for Mr. Rodgers, even if his praise could be interpreted as a back handed slap to the other 52 players on the Green Bay squad.

All up, I expect a lot of empty pews across America this Sunday as families skip church to partake in my country’s true national past-time: football season.

And while I’m supposed to be impartial here, I often see Dave Dameshek rooting on his Pittsburgh Steelers over at NFL.com, so here’s my two cents – Go Hawks!

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Michael Airhart

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