Brady, Manning... Manning, Brady. ONE MORE TIME. (Photo credit: Stew Milne / USA TODAY Sports)

It’s Conference Championship Weekend, and what more could we ask for? Patriots, Broncos, Cardinals, and Panthers — they’ve been the 4 best teams throughout the year, no question. The ultimate gift: Brady vs Manning, the final chapter. The NFL and football fans alike deserve to see this matchup. The Cards & Panthers are loaded with stand-up guys that you can actually root for — Cam Newton, Luke Keuchly, Larry Fitzgerald, and Carson Palmer to name a few. The Panthers give all of their TD-balls to kids for God’s sake. It makes it almost impossible to root for any other team… All in all, it’s a perfect final four.

One note about the postseason picks: Two-time VDB Office Pool Champ Mike Procopio is 5-2-1 against the spread, and 5-2-1 over/under. If you like to dabble in some friendly wagers, I’d suggest you ride his hot hand. Now let’s get to it.

 

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP:

 

New England Patriots (-3.5) @ Denver Broncos
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Over/Under: 44.5
Temperature: 42°
Wind: 3-8 mph
 
 
 
This game is the culmination of one of the greatest rivalries in NFL history: Manning vs. Brady. This is THE LAST GAME between these two Hall-of-Famers, and WE KNOW IT. It might bring tears to my eyes, no joke. I’m thankful that we know it’s their last matchup, so we can appreciate it going into the game. A few years back when Manning had his third spinal cord surgery in a span of 15 months, it seemed unlikely that he would ever play again. The fact that he was as dominant as he was in his return is ridiculous. Fast forward to 2016 — it’s pretty evident that he has 1 (or 2) games left in his body. Again, very upsetting.

All initial signs point to the Patriots in this game: Belichick & Brady are the deadliest Coach/QB tandem of all time. The Patriots are m*therfuckers when it comes to the playoffs. Brady is 11-5 against Manning head-to-head. Not looking good for the Broncos. However, in AFC Championship games, Manning is 2-1 against Brady. Score 1 for the “greatest regular season QB of all time”. Brady’s only AFC Championship win against Manning came in 2004 — at home. Manning’s two wins also came at home — one in Indy (2007), one in Denver (2014). Sunday’s game is in Denver, which — as we all know — is a daunting home field due to the altitude and the environment. So… what should we expect?

First off, it’s dangerous to bet against the Broncos as 3.5 point home dogs. That defense is so ruthless, they could keep any NFL offense afloat. Can Brady crack their D? Of course. He won’t destroy it, but he’ll definitely find some cracks. So naturally, Key #1 is the Broncos ability to harass Brady. If they can knock him around a bit, he’ll become human. I’ve actually never seen such an elite QB (Top 2 in most rankings) become so ordinary when dealing with pressure, knockdowns, and sacks. He tends to beat himself after he gets rattled. It’s wild. If any defense can bring out the worst in Brady, it’s the 2015-16 Broncos D.

Key #2 — which might be more important — is Manning vs. the Pats D (they’ve been very good this year). He needs to make the clutch throws with that weakened arm. He needs to audible like he’s never audibled before. Good news for Peyton: there won’t be any wind to knock down his spiral-less passes, and the daytime temperature is a comfortable 42° (so no glove to mess with his delivery). On top of that, it’ll be cloudy — so no harsh sunny glare to alter his field vision (e.g., DBs sneaking in from the shadows). It’s almost as if God is putting a cloud-dome on top of Mile High out of respect for one of the greatest NFL QB’s final home game… and it just so happens to be the AFC Championship. Beautiful, isn’t it?

If this game was in Gilette, I wouldn’t give the Broncos more than a 5% chance of winning. It’s in Mile High, however, which puts the Broncos in the winnable category… especially as a home dog. Respect! I think the Denver defense rattles Brady, and Manning finds a way to get to the Superbowl for his last chance at that elusive 2nd title.

Voodoo’s picks:
Against the spread: Denver +3.5
Straight up: Denver
Over/Under: Over 44.5
 
Mike Procopio’s picks:
Against the spread: Denver +3.5
Straight up: New England
Over/Under: Over 44.5

 
 

Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers (-3.5)
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Over/Under: 48
Temperature: 40°
Wind: 2-7 mph
 
 
 
If I had to make my pick going off of the last two games these teams played, I would pick the Panthers 10 times out of 10. The Cardinals laid an egg at home against the Seahawks in Week 17 with something on the line, then had the Packers take them into OT in their Divisional Playoff game (after a bye). Pretty sketchy, Bruce. Get your shit together. The Panthers, on the other hand, finished strong in Week 17 and kept that momentum going when they jumped the most battle-tested team in the playoffs — the Seahawks. 31 points in the first 30 minutes was enough to knock them off the NFC throne. All that said — if I’m a Panthers fan, I’m a little worried about their ability to finish a game. Seattle mounted an entertaining comeback, and it wasn’t the first time this season that Carolina let a team creep back into the mix after a fast start.

My thoughts on this matchup: Arizona has been playing some uninspired football lately, but they have enough veteran talent & elite coaching to correct their mistakes for THIS GAME — in this spot — and snap back into hellfire mode. Carolina has done pretty much everything right this season, but they haven’t faced a team as balanced and potent as the Cardinals (with the exception of the Seahawks). If the Panthers don’t get an early lead on the Cardinals and establish control of the game, they’ll find themselves in a very difficult, and unfamiliar, spot. It’s a coinflip, but I think the Cardinals have more talent on both sides of the ball, and are poised to pull off the upset.

Voodoo’s picks:
Against the spread: Arizona +3.5
Straight up: Arizona
Over/Under: Over 48
 
Mike Procopio’s picks:
Against the spread: Carolina -3.5
Straight up: Carolina
Over/Under: Under 48

 
 
POSTSEASON RECORD:
 
Mike Procopio:
Straight Up: 8-0
Against the Spread: 5-2-1
Over/Under: 5-2-1
 
Voodoo Brown:
Straight Up: 6-2
Against the Spread: 0-7-1 (atrocious… stick with Mike)
Over/Under: 4-3-1

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Voodoo Brown
Voodoo Brown started playing fantasy football way back in 1994 — when you had to manually add up scores with the Monday edition of USA Today (yes, that’s how it was done). Since that time, he has amassed 16 championships and 7 runner-ups, with most of his success coming after 2003 (avg. participation of 2-3 leagues per year). These accomplishments are evidence that Voodoo steadily adjusts to the ebbs & flows of the ever-changing fantasy landscape. It’s a different game now than it was in 1994 — hell, even 2004. Rarely finishing as a doormat, Voodoo’s teams are always in the mix. If you want any roster or lineup feedback, you can message him at vb@voodoobrown.com, or hit him up on Facebook or Twitter (@VoodooBrown)

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