Richard Moore previews the AFC and NFC title games...
Century Link Field, Seattle, Sunday Jan 19th 2014 11:30 GMT, Sky Sports 1/1HD
And then there were four - Seattle, San Francisco, New England, and Denver are all within one game of punching their ticket to the big dance at Metlife Stadium on February 2nd, and if we're all honest, we’ve got the desired match-ups. One featuring a storied quarterback rivalry, the other - an inter-divisional grudge match dripping with mutual disdain.
First up, we have a true grudge between two teams that both talk and deliver a good game, and are very much a reflection of their coaches style. So expect big hitting, plenty of trash talking amidst some pretty spectacular play in a close fought contest, far removed from the last two disproportionate contests in Seattle, where the Seahawks subjected the 49ers to some real pasting’s.
You won’t want to miss this one.
Prediction: Following back-to-back defeats earlier in the year that dropped the 49ers to 6-4, they have reeled off eight straight, and despite the Seattle offense slowing a little of late, I still can’t see a San Francisco offense, however well balanced, doing enough to see off the combination of Seattle’s defense and the 12th man.
Score: San Francisco 17, Seattle 21.
The Numbers Game
13 - 11 - Seattle’s head-to-head record against San Francisco since 2001.
71 - 16 - The aggregate score following the last two meetings between the sides at Century Link Field.
4 out of 7 - Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch has accounted for four of the top seven rushing games against the 49ers since he joined the Seahawks in 2010, chalking up 98, 103, 107, and 111 for a grand total of 419 total yards over the four games played.
339.0 - Yards per game registered by Seattle.
202.2 - Seattle’s passing yards per game.
136.8 - Seattle’s rush yards per game.
26.1 - Average points per game put by the Seahawks throughout the course of the season.
37.3 - Percentage of successful third down conversions by Seattle.
276.3 - Yards per game conceded by Seattle.
35.2 - Percentage of third down conversions allowed by the Seahawks.
64.9 to 56.7 and 67.5 to 30.4 - The difference in quarterback Russell Wilson’s completion percentage and quarterback rating from the first twelve games to the last five.
22-6 to 4-3 - Russell Wilson’s touchdown/interception ratio over the aforementioned period.
1 and 5 - The defensive rankings of the two teams, with Seattle ranking first in total defense, compared to San Francisco, who rank fifth.
0 - The number of players Seattle has when it comes to the top defensive interceptions.
323.8 - San Francisco’s yards per game.
1834.0 - Total time of possession for the 49ers.
Number one!! - San Francisco boasts the number one player, both in terms of tackles made and sacks registered. Linebacker NaVarro Bowman has 21 tackles for the season, and fellow 49er Ahmad Brooks has 4.5 sacks.
25.4 - Average volume of points per game for the 49ers.
87.0 and 101.5 - Quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s passer rating before and after the return of receiver Michael Crabtree.
49.3 and 64.4 - The difference in completion percentage for Colin Kaepernick when facing the Seahawks in comparison to the rest of the league.
5-3 - San Francisco’s head-to-head record against the Seahawks since Pete Carroll began his head coaching tenure in the pacific North West.
0-3 - During his 14-year career as an NFL quarterback, Jim Harbaugh lost all three of his match-ups against teams coached by Pete Carroll; losing twice to New England, and once to the New York Jets.
Sports Authority Field, Denver. Sunday Jan 19th 2014 7:30 GMT, Sky Sports 1/1HD
By taking care of business last weekend the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos guaranteed us another enthralling encounter between two of the games greats in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Brady won the most recent encounter with his long-time rival, erasing an incredible 24-0 deficit on route to a spectacular and highly improbable 34-31 victory. But that was a regular season fixture, in Foxboro, and this game takes place in Denver - and he had Gronkowski then, now out for the post-season with injury. So, will home field advantage count or will there be any lingering scars inflicted by that agonizing defeat in New England?
Prediction: Despite Denver being favourites in the eyes of many experts, I see an ‘upset’ brewing, due to a combination of New England’s suddenly devastating run game, and the evident effect of the Chris Harris exit to a torn ACL had against the Chargers in the divisional round. Expect Brady, like Rivers, to exploit the loss and guide the Patriots to a sixth Super Bowl appearance in the Belichick era.
Score: New England 31, Denver 27
The Numbers Game
15 - Total meetings between Brady and Manning.
10 - 4 - Brady’s regular season head-to-head record against Peyton Manning.
10-11 - Manning’s career playoff record.
18-7 - Brady’s career playoff record. The most playoff wins in NFL history, placing Brady two ahead of the legendary Joe Montana.
42 - Career playoff passing touchdowns for Brady, three short of Montana’s record. Manning has 34.
55 - Manning’s single season touchdown passes record set in 2013, breaking the record previously held by Brady’s 50 set in 2007.
491 - Career touchdowns for Manning, second most all-time (Brady ranks fifth with 359).
64,964 - Career passing yards for Manning, second most all-time. Brady ranks seventh with 49,149.
431 - Yards posted by Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount over his last three games.
501 - The Patriots have rushed for 501 yards in the last two games. They have run the football on 63 per cent of their plays last week.
28 - Games New England has won in a row when producing a 100-yard rusher.
image: © Keith Allison