The much anticipated countdown to Super Bowl 50 is just three weeks away now that the table has been set with the NFC and AFC Championship games. You might suspect that the NFL is kicking their heels over the conference championships. For the first time since 2004, the top two conference seeds meet, with Super Bowl 50 the reward for the winners. NFL Super Bowl XLIX defending champion 13-4 New England Patriots and the 13-4 Denver Broncos meet in Denver for the AFC title.
In the NFC title game, the 16-1 Carolina Panthers meet the 14-3 Arizona Cardinals. Quarterbacks Cam Newton and Carson Palmer are both heavy MVP candidates in what should be a great marquee matchup.
Both Newton and Palmer are previous Heisman Trophy winners and both were selected No. 1 overall coming into the NFL. Newton was taken by Carolina and Palmer by Cincinnati. It will, however, be in the shadow of Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning in the 17th and potentially final meeting of two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
This season, the glowing reputations of both Brady and Manning for great achievement on the field and winning have been somewhat tainted by Deflate Gate in Brady’s case. He did win his appeal of a four-game suspension by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, which the league has appealed.
And Manning has been accused of taking HGH (Human Growth Hormone) that was delivered to his home. He has vehemently denied taking HGH, saying it was for his wife.
Manning missed six games this year because of injury and is 39; Brady is 38. This could likely be their final meeting.
Manning is 2-1 in conference championship games vs. Brady. In the previous 16 times they have matched up over their careers Brady is 11-5. This is the 10th Conference Championship for Brady; he’s 5-1 against all other quarterbacks.
Carolina and Arizona met last year in Carolina in the playoffs with the Panthers and Newton winning 27-16. Palmer did not play inthat game as he was injured. So buckle your straps — this should be great theater with Super Bowl 50 the big prize.
The Cardinals beat the Packers 26-20 in overtime to advance to the title game. The Minnesota Vikings may have lost to Seattle 10-9 the week before, but two Minnesota-born athletes came up big for the Cardinals. Michael Floyd scored two touchdowns and Larry Fitzgerald Jr., with 176 yards on eight receptions and the game-winning touchdown in overtime, also came up big.
Carolina beat Seattle 31-24, Denver beat Pittsburgh 23-16, and New England beat Kansas City 27-20.
The Vikings are the NFC North Champions after upsetting the Green Bay Packers 20-13 in prime time at historic Lambeau Field. Head Coach Mike Zimmer in his second season guided a young football team to their first NFC North title since 2009.
The Packers had won the NFC North title four years in a row. Vikings star Adrian Peterson ran for 67 yards and a huge third-quarter touchdown, and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn returned an Aaron Rodgers fumble 55 yards for a touchdown. The 11-5 Vikings earn the NFC’s number-three seed and will host the defending NFC Champion 10-6 wild card Seattle Seahawks Sunday at high noon at TCF Stadium.
It was the Vikings’ third-straight win. They played physical, running the football and got after Rodgers on defense with five sacks and forcing two turnovers. Defensive end Everson Griffin was outstanding with two sacks and the big forced fumble on Rodgers, which was returned for a touchdown.
The Vikings finished 5-1 in the NFC North against Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay. It was the first time the Packers had failed to win a Division game to all three teams — Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota — at home since 1968.
Peterson left the game with a lower back injury in the third quarter; he had it x-rayed to make certain there was no spine injury, and he returned and played through it. The Vikings had to survive some big mistakes of their own. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, while being rushed, tried a left-handed pass that was intercepted. And Vikings kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson, after a big 71-yard return, fumbled, which was also recovered by the Packers.
This week the playoffs begin. Twelve teams have qualified for the opportunity to win Super Bowl 50. In the AFC, Denver, New England, Cincinnati, Houston, Kansas City and Pittsburgh qualified in that order.
Denver and New England are number-one and number-two seeds and get first-round byes. In the NFC, Carolina, Arizona, Minnesota, Washington, Green Bay and Seattle qualified in that order. Carolina (15-1) and Arizona (13-3) are top two seeds and get byes.
Seattle is in the playoffs for the fourth-straight season. They played the Vikings on December 6 at TCF Stadium and dominated 38-7. But this time it’s for keeps — the Seahawks are trying to become the first NFC team to reach the Super Bowl three straight years.
The Vikings are back in the playoffs as they clinched the NFC’s final playoff spot by dominating the New York Giants 49-17 Sunday night at frigid TCF Stadium. Adrian Peterson ran for 104 yards and scored his 10th touchdown of the season.
The Vikings are 10-5 for the second year under Head Coach Mike Zimmer and are tied with 10-5 Green Bay in the NFC North. Next Sunday, January 3, at 7:25 pm at Lambeau Field, the NBC Sunday Night cameras will follow the Vikings and Packers battling for the NFC North title. A lot is on the line, including hosting a home playoff game, and the number-three NFC playoff seed in the Super Bowl 50 tournament is up for grabs.
The Packers started the season 6-0, but since have gone just 4-5 while the Vikings have caught fire in December with a 38-17 win over Chicago and Sunday’s 49-17 domination of the Giants. The Giants were without suspended Pro Bowl receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Quarterback Eli Manning was intercepted three times, once for a touchdown by safety Harrison Smith, his fourth interception return for a touchdown of his four-year career, a new Vikings record. The Packers are 3-2 in the NFC North vs. Chicago, Detroit and the Vikings.
Minnesota is 4-1 in the NFC North. If the Packers were to win next Sunday at home, the head-to-head sweep of the Vikings would take the Division.
Green Bay slipped into a tie with the Vikings after getting whipped Sunday 38-8 by red-hot Arizona, winners of nine straight games. The NFL uses flexible scheduling on Sundays in weeks 11-17; this ensures quality match-ups in all NFL Sunday time slots. It allowed the Vikings the opportunity to play their way into a prime-time position.
Sunday Night’s win was the Vikings first win in prime time in 2015 after setbacks to San Francisco 20-3 on Monday Night Football and 23-20 on Thursday night vs. Arizona. Yes, the Vikings have proven they are ready for the prime time spotlight.
Vikings Head Coach Zimmer has the reputation of being a “fixer.” He’s 17-14 as Vikings head coach, but 0-3 vs. Green Bay. However, if he can fix his team’s recent woes against the hated Packers with a win Sunday, the Vikings would be rolling into the playoffs.