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NFL Picks - Championship games: Pats heading to Levi's Stadium after a tight one

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It's here, it's the Championship round of the NFL playoffs and the two top ranks from the NFC and AFC have made it despite scares along the way.

I went 2-2 last week, I don't think anyone saw the Panthers starting so quickly or the Chiefs having such poor clock management in post-season - it was ridiculous, walking up to the line with three timeouts and 14 points to score but completely oblivious to it all.

But enough about Kansas, let's get to the some goddamn picks.


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New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Or Brady vs Manning 17.0. Or because the NFL dropped the Roman numerals this year, Brady vs Manning XVII - see, doesn't that just look better?

Just look at CBS Sports' graphic:

And it's probably the final time we see these two face-offs against each other because Peyton is likely to hang up his helmet regardless of what happens.

The last time these two played, Brady had no options to pass to - Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman were out and Gronk was lost with three minutes to go and, therefore, missed overtime - but Tom still almost won the game.

They're all back for this one (Edelman is currently unknown) - but that doesn't mean it's a straight-up Pats win because Brady is not hot at Mile High Stadium with a 2-6 record, going 0-2 in the playoffs and losing the most recent in 2013 with Peyton under centre.

But that was a long time ago - when Peyton wasn't on the slide.

If the Broncos are to win, Manning will need to have a big game - which out of the question when last week, his first full game in two months, he looked OK while his receivers dropped seven passes as Denver's old problem returned.

He should be much better this week, but his "Possum" play won't work against Bill's defence and while he is 5-11 against Brady overall, he's 2-2 in the playoffs with the home team winning every game.

Brady, as we've said, has his weapons unlike the regular season match-up, but faces the best defence in the league this week compared to the hottest defence last week - which should be a tasty affair.

A key to this game could be the running game; the Pats have none while the Broncos have some.

Likewise, so will the kickers because it could all be decided by field goals.

ALERT: nail-biting, close game worthy of these two Hall of Fame QBs.

Winner: I really don't know; head says Pats abut heart says Broncos but forced to choose, Patriots.


Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers

I've been saying for weeks that the Cardinals are the best team in the NFC, and while they've been a bit off lately with their overtime win against Green Bay and Week 17 loss to the Seahawks, I'm not about to abandon them now.

The Panthers survived another late scare by the Seahawks in the divisional round, something the Cardinals have surely looked at as a worrying trend by Cam's Carolina - their tendency to switch off and let teams back into the game in the fourth quarter.

These teams are extremely well matched with great offence and defence, the only difference seems to be Cam Newton's MVP year.

Aside from that, Arizona shades the running game while Carolina has a stud TE in Olsen.

So, will Super Cam become Super Can't?

As with almost every NFC title game, this a ball-ache to pick as, over the past eight years, all eight games have been decided by one score and four of those have gone into overtime.

The Cardinals will have hopefully learned from their game against Russell Wilson in how to stop a dual-threat QB, but that also when the Seahawks were unstoppable.

Keeping Carson Palmer standing and with time to throw will be key and if Arizona does that they'll win the game given the weapons Palmer has and his ability to make every throw.

Plus, you know, they've got Fitz.

Carolina had the fast start last week against a Seattle team that seemed to leave its game in Seattle until the fourth quarter.

The Panthers have everything to hurt Arizona and they haven't lost at home all year but this is a ferocious pass rush they're facing and if Cam is made to leave the pocket under pressure from a blitz, it could result in turnovers.

This is the first time in NFL history that two Heisman-winning quarterbacks will be starting against each other in the playoffs, I know we all wanted Tebow-Manziel but you can't have everything.

This should be a close one and wouldn't it brilliant if Fitz scored the game-winning play?

I know Carolina are at home and have Cam and the better record and dominated early on against Seattle BUT I am not abandoning Arizona now.

Winner: Cardinals by less than a TD

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Carolina Panthers
Denver Broncos
Arizona Cardinals
New England Patriots

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