The four teams remaining on championship Sunday in the NFL this weekend– the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks– all bring unique styles of play to the gridiron. Denver's Peyton Manning has shattered passing records this year while the Patriots' team evolution continues to account for personnel losses. San Francisco's defense is a lockdown unit once again while Seattle doesn't have any glaring flaws. Each team deserves to be in contention for the Super Bowl this weekend but only one can win it. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate exactly who that team should and will be.
Green: You can't discount the way Manning has played this year. This offense is unbelievably efficient and the game's best trigger man is calling the shots on a unit drenched in talent. Denver's defense plays just well enough to get stops while the offense can make up for any score needed to win a game. The chances of the Broncos returning to this round next year are up in the air, making this perhaps Manning's last good chance of securing another title. If you look around the landscape with other teams you won't find a more important player at a more important position than Manning with a ticking timeline on getting it done. Because of this, I think he beats Tom Brady and the Patriots and reaches the Super Bowl. But that’s where he’ll lose as the Seahawks are just the most complete team in the NFL this year and will claim the throne as Super Bowl champs.
Riley: Trusting Manning this late in the year is always risky. For all his accolades and regular season awards, his 10-11 playoff record does say something. Well-rounded teams tend to have more success in the postseason and there isn't a team nearly as complete as the 49ers right now. Last year's runner ups appear to be gaining momentum with a fast defense and a quarterback in Colin Kaepernick who can hurt an opponent in so many different ways. Weapons on the outside in Vernon Davis, Anquan Bolding and Michael Crabtree only round out a complete unit with a solid offensive line and Frank Gore at running back. There really isn't too much not to like about San Francisco, even if they are going on the road in Seattle this weekend. They were there last year and that experience should only help them this time around.
Green: Going into Seattle is probably the last we'll see of San Francisco this year. The Seahawks absolutely abuse opponents at home and they've been extremely affective against the 49ers there over the past few years. However, if you get the Seahawks away from home, they just don’t seem to be the same dominant team. But, we have to remember that playing at a neutral site– this year’s Super Bowl is in East Rutherford, N.J. –isn’t the same as a typical road game. There could be just as many Seahawks fans at the neutral site as there are at home games, giving the Seahawks that 12th man advantage again. If so, count me in for the Seahawks winning it all.
Riley: San Francisco just took out Green Bay and Carolina on the road in frigid weather. The game against the Packers was basically another Ice Bowl type of game. That defense is scary and travels with them wherever the team goes. The way this unit is hitting now, I doubt any one of the remaining AFC challengers could go a whole game with this type of punishing team and not be worn out in the final quarter. The toughest team left has my vote for winner of Super Bowl XLVIII.