Jacked Up Picks: Championship Sunday Breakdown

Posted by Jack Tumen

AP

For the first ever post in Jacked Up Sports history, I’ll have the pleasure of breaking down the much anticipated Championship Sunday for the 2013 NFL post season. In my opinion, these are the most evenly matched championship games we’ve been graced to witness in the 21st century. With Brady vs. Manning XV in the 3:00 slot and an NFC West bloodbath at 6:30, I’ll need to have my eye drops on deck so I can keep blinking.

If you continue following my blog, you’ll learn that I’m a fan of the old school, smash mouth roots of the NFL. As much fun as it is to see the Broncos and the Cowboys combine for ninety-nine points on a Sunday afternoon, I prefer to watch two hard-hitting defenses knock the snot out of a quarterback and a running back get fed the ball thirty-plus times in a 13 – 10 slugfest.

Luckily for us, we get the best of both worlds on Sunday. Rarely do the teams with the highest anticipation at the start of the season fulfill those expectations in late January and early February. Well, credit is due where credit is deserved, and ESPN nailed it on the head with their preseason power rankings that they published way back in July. Numbers one, two and three: bam, bam bam, with the Patriots not far behind at sixth.

First and foremost we get to enjoy the greatest quarterback matchup the sport has ever seen and we get to watch it on the second largest stage possible – next to the Super Bowl of course. Throw out all the records and the reputations: this one’s for all the marbles. Now in the twilight of their careers, these two legends get to slug it out for the second time this season (New England won 34 – 31 in OT on Nov. 25th.)

But this is a game of willpower: the winner gets a ticket to the biggest game in the history of sports while adding to his long list of glorious achievements – and as we tend to think this game will be determined by whose arm can remain in its socket the longest, this is not your slightly older cousin’s Brady vs. Manning matchup.

New England has officially stamped itself as a ground and pound offense. Legarrette Blount has been running like Forrest Gump over the last month (431 yards, 8 TDs and 6.53 YPC since Dec. 22nd) and is showing no signs of slowing down against a banged up Broncos defense that’ll be without Von Miller and now Chris Harris. With other able bodies like Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in the backfield, the approach would appear to be the same for New England going into this one.

But the real kicker for the Pats isn’t even in their backfield: it’s Julian Edelman. He ranked fourth in the NFL this season with 105 receptions: that’s THIRTY plus TWO more catches than his evil twin Wessy-Wes Welker. And as much as people like to compare these two, they are simply nothing alike. Wes Welker does a lot of his damage off screens, in the flats and along the sidelines where he still manages to be injury prone – he missed the final three weeks of the regular season with what was his second concussion of the year. Say what you want about how those three games could’ve affected his stats, but Welker is a player carrying an “injury prone” label at this point in his career.

Michael Dwyer/AP Photo

Meanwhile, Edelman is the toughest dude we’ve seen on an NFL field this season. He fearlessly runs drag routes and seams right through the teeth of opposing defenses and hangs on to just about every ball that comes his way. His durability has been the most underrated aspect of this Patriots team that has had anything BUT durability this season – Dobson, Thompkins and Amendola all played on less than half of New England’s offensive snaps and Gronk has done his best impersonation of a reverse Jeffrey: he comes back…and then…he goes away!

To put it straight, Edelman played on 85.3% of New England’s offensive snaps during the regular season which ranks him sixth in that category among all wide receivers, while Welker played on only 63.8% of Denver’s. On top of that, two of the five receivers to rank ahead of Edelman in that statistic were none other than Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Even Julius Thomas played on a higher percentage of snaps than Welker (74.7%) – and we know he wasn’t in there to block.

Tom Brady was able to turn a 5’10” former quarterback into his security blanket – a blanket that used to be 6’6″ and named Rob. It’s a feat that only a quarterback as good as Brady could pull off and a recipe that defies just about everything we know about the modern day NFL. But that’s why we love the game, right?

An underrated storyline in this game is the fact that Peyton is about to lead the best offense to ever take the field against the quarterback who used to maneuver the best offense to ever take the field not too long ago. Just adds some more juice to an already juicy game.

I’m not going to say much about the Broncos because we all know what they are: the dream video game offense projected on to an NFL field. I always make sure to turn up the tube extra loud on Denver’s drives so I can hear Peyton yelling “Omaha!;” “apple apple!;” and my new favorite; “smoky!

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

For the majority of the season, the Seattle Seahawks were the Super Bowl favorite because of their vaunted defense. Richard Sherman led the league with eight interceptions while rubbing off an undeniable swagger on his teammates. Earl Thomas grew into one of the top three safeties in the game right before our eyes. Losing Brandon Browner didn’t have much of an effect as Byron Maxwell filled in admirably. And all the while Pete Carroll continued to find ways to motivate his squad by playing a brand of football that doesn’t exactly pass the modern eye test.

Russell Wilson played like a machine in his sophomore effort. Despite being sacked 44 times during the regular season, which tied him for third most among QBs, he displayed superb elusiveness when moving outside of the pocket. Russ was also one of just four QBs to throw less than 10 interceptions in at least 15 starts: the other three were Alex Smith, Andrew Luck and of course, Colin Kaepernick.

This matchup is great for a lot of reasons: 1) these two teams are division rivals; 2) they split the regular season series, each winning the home game; 3) both defenses finished in the top five in yards allowed during the regular season.

However, if there were any time that the Seahawks wouldn’t want to play the 9ers, it’s right now. San Fran has reascended to its 2012 playoff form, only this time it has an extra year of experience with the same group of players. NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis are numbers one and two in tackles this postseason while Ahmad Brooks has racked up a whopping 4.5 sacks through those two games to lead all defensive players. Sure they were a wildcard team and had an extra game to “pad the stats,” but anyone who knows football knows that the 49ers are as mean as it gets when it comes to defense.

Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle

On the other side of the football, C-Kaep has begun to find his C-legs. He’s rushed for 113 yards on 15 carries to rank sixth among all rushers this postseason, and his 7.5 YPC average has him at numero uno among all rushers with at least 10 rushing attempts in the playoffs. For good measure, he was also number one in that same category when all was said and done after the Super Bowl last year, only he was averaging over 10 yards a pop.

After the confetti had fallen, Anquan Bolden and Michael Crabtree ranked one and two in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns during the postseason. Currently out of all remaining wideouts in this year’s postseason, those two fellas are also first and second in receptions and receiving yards. Now THERE’S something to get Jim Harbaugh’s blood pressure up, in a good way of course.

The only thing San Francisco doesn’t have going for it in this one is the fact that it has to brave the notorious 12th man once more, to whom it fell 29 – 3 back in week two on national television.

Having said that, I just dont think it’s Russell Wilson’s time yet. I love his game and his attitude, but my grandfather reallyyy likes the 9ers in this one, so I just can’t go against him. San Francisco is primed for another run at the Lombardi trophy.

Picks

The freight train that is the Patriots offense gets derailed amidst the mile-high madness and Peyton gets a shot to get his bling even with brother Eli.           Broncos 28, Patriots 27

The 49ers overcome the crowd noise to advance to a second straight Super Bowl. Colin Kaepernick rushes for 100 yards and passes for another 200.                     49ers 27, Seahawks 19

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