NFC Conference Championship Recap
By: Joe Berra
A dream that started about five months ago for 32 teams has just become a reality for two, the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. They will meet in Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California on February 7th for a shot at the Lombardi Trophy. Early Super Bowl lines at America’s Bookie have the Panthers a 4½-point favorite with the total at 45.
I killed this game with my picks, have a look at my article NFL Conference Championship Picks to see that I took the Panthers to cover and the OVER. The Panthers destroyed the 3-point they were giving, beating the Cardinals 49-15 which bested the total by going OVER by three scores. It marked the seventh time in nine games Carolina has played to the OVER and seen them cover in 13 of 18 games this year.
To pat myself on the back, my preview of the Panther/Cardinal game pointed out Carolina were holding the two X-Factors for the NFC Championship tilt…Cam Newton and the Panthers defensive unit as a whole, including their linebacking core of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. Even though Davis exited in the second-quarter with a broken right arm, his presence was felt in a big way having already racked up 4 solo tackles, with two for losses and 2 tackle assists.
Kuechly once again showed his big play ability, putting the game totally out of reach for the Cardinals after he picked off QB Carson Palmer, his third of 4 on the day, and returned it for a touchdown to put his team up by 34 with 5 minutes to play.
The Carolina defense as a whole played extremely well and looks great heading into the Big Show at Levi’s Stadium in a couple Sunday’s. They created 7 turnovers, the aforementioned four Carson Palmer INT’s to go along with his two fumbles and special teams fumble by Patrick Peterson. Needless to say, it’s a game Palmer would rather forget. At one point, the Cardinals had turnovers on three consecutive plays: Peterson’s muff, Palmer’s fumble, and Kurt Coleman’s first of two picks.
The other X-Factor is this guy named Cam Newton, who many, including myself feel should be this year’s MVP. He showed why he deserves the honor, leading his team to victory throwing for 335 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Add to that his 47 rushing yards on 10 carries with two touchdowns and it’s the stuff legends are made of.
Carolina is sure to give Peyton Manning and the rest of the Broncos offense fits holding Arizona to 15 points after they averaged 30.6 (2nd in the NFL) in the regular season. The Cardinals first half possessions resulted in 3 straight punts to open the game, followed by a fumble. Their 5th possession resulted in their first points of the game after going 79-yards on a 6-minute drive on 10 plays ending with a David Johnson TD.
The touchdown was all but negated after the Cardinals showed signs of life holding the Panthers to their second straight 3-and-out, only to have Peterson muff the punt resulting in one of Newton’s two rushing TD’s.
It’s still way too early for me to make a Super Bowl prediction, but right now I’m leaning towards the Panthers. Have a look at my AFC Conference Championship Recap to see all the going’s on to set up this year’s last NFL game.
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