Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.
New England @ Denver (+3)
The Patriots advanced to the AFC title game with a 27-20 win over the visiting Chiefs. Tom Brady passed for 302 yards and two touchdowns, both to Rob Gronkowski.
“We’re in our fifth consecutive AFC championship game,” Brady said. “That’s just one more thing we’ve been accused of ‘making a habit of.’ I had to get ahead of myself, but I would love to win Super Bowl 50. Honestly, I can’t wait to raise the Lombardi Trophy in front of Roger Goodell and utter the words ‘I did it!’
“Gronkowski set an NFL record for most playoff touchdowns by a tight end with eight. You can make an argument that he’s the greatest ever. If you put all the tight end who have ever played in a prison setting, Gronk would be in solitary.
“Reaching the Super Bowl is a big deal to me. Winning it is even bigger. That would give me five rings. That’s would be one more than Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw, and four more than Manning, Brett Favre, Drew Brees, and Vladimir Putin. Supposedly, Robert Kraft let Putin hold one of his rings and Putin never gave it back. And I thought Robert Irsay was the NFL owner who had the problem with White Russians.
“When you go from four rings to five, it’s a huge step. You’re no longer talking ‘ring fingers;’ you’re talking ‘ring hands.’ It sounds awfully weird to say this, but Manning is the only thing standing between me from being fingered and me being fisted.
“Antonio Smith said I complain to officials too much, and called me a ‘crybaby.’ Honestly, I’m surprised the Broncos would resort to name-calling. What’s even more surprising? That a Patriot would preface a statement with the word ‘honestly.’”
The Broncos triumphed in a hard-fought 23-16 contest against the Steelers, capitalizing on a late Pittsburgh fumble that led to C.J. Anderson’s game-winning one-yard touchdown run.
“Our defense kept us in the game,” Manning said, “and got a turnover when we needed it most. Give credit to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. His brain holds a plethora of defensive information gleaned from nearly 40 years in football. That’s why his head is so big. By that rationale, Rob Ryan must store his defensive information in his belly.
“Broncos’ fans are hoping I still have some magic left in me. But I don’t believe in magic. I can’t pull a rabbit out of hat. Heck, I can barely pull my hand out of my glove.
“This will be my 17th meeting with Tom Brady. I really don’t consider Tom a rival; I consider him a friend and contemporary. Tom and I actually talk on the phone often. Whenever I call, he always answers on the fourth ring.”
Sunday’s forecast in Denver calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-40’s. For early winter in the Rocky Mountains, that’s downright balmy, and results in a number of hard-partying Broncos fans showing up shirtless, reeking of marijuana.
What can the Broncos offense learn from that of the Patriots? The advantages of the short passing game, of course. Manning certainly has the arm for it. To combat the Patriots offense, the Denver defense has to get physical. How physical? Physical enough that Sean Payton and Gregg Williams take notice. The Broncos successfully limit the Pats short passing game, but it’s the long passing game that makes the difference. Brady finds Brandon LaFell, who slips by Bradley Roby, for a 65-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth that forces the Broncos to abandon their conservative game plan. A tipped pass later leads to a Manning interception, and New England advances to Super Bowl 50.
Patriots win 26-19. Brady asks Manning where to send condolences; Manning tells him they can be addressed to his wife.
Arizona @ Carolina (-3 1/2)
The Cardinals beat the Packers 26-20 in overtime to advance to the NFC championship game. Aaron Rodgers’ 41-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to Jeff Janis on the final play of regulation forced overtime, but Larry Fitzgerald’s TD on the third play of overtime sent the Cards into jubilation.
“Rodgers has a knack for throwing the ball up for grabs,” Bruce Arians said, “as did Carson Palmer on a few of his throws. Rodgers may be the greatest Hail Mary passer of all time. His heaves have gone down in history, much like those of Donovan McNabb.
“Our game certainly didn’t lack for excitement, and it seemed no moment was more exciting than the overtime coin toss. In another boneheaded incident for NFL officials, it appeared referee Clete Blakeman thought he was at midcourt for a jump ball. Not surprisingly, the Packers want him relieved of his coin tossing duties. In other words, they want him flipped off.
“I can’t match Cam Newton in athletic ability. Nor can I match his prowess in the whirlpool. I’ve never shared a whirlpool with Greg Olsen, but former Cardinal Matt Leinart once shared a hot tub with the Olsen twins. Of course, they may have been the most respectable women to attend a Leinart hot tub session. Matt puts the ‘Ho’ in ‘H20.’”
Carolina jumped on the Seahawks early, racing to a 31-0 halftime lead and holding on for a 31-21 win. The Panthers scored touchdowns on their first two drives, with a Luke Kuechly interception return sandwiched in between.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Cam Newton said. “There were the ‘halves’ and the ‘halve nots. That game set a record, for most unanswered points by two separate teams. If you would have told me we would go scoreless in the second half, I would have told you some little kids in the end zones would emulate me and say the ‘F’ word in anger.
“We’ve motivated ourselves all season with the slogan ‘Keep pounding.’ We can’t go anywhere without hearing those words. Usually, we hear it from fans. Mike Tolbert hears it from his bathroom scale. Big booty aside, fans have grown to love Mike Tolbert. For the first time in years, Panthers fans can say ‘junk in the trunk’ without recalling sore memories of 1999. Jose Canseco was the first Major League Baseball player to join the 40-40 Club. Mike’s the first member of the NFL’s 40-40-40 Club, because those are his measurements.
“We’re 1-1 versus the Cardinals in the playoffs. That includes last year’s win, and 2009’s 33-13 loss. In that game, Jake Delhomme had five interceptions and a lost fumble. He’s not playing football anymore, but I hear his new profession is raising horses. So, if you give Jake a new leaf, he’ll turn it over.”
Panthers fans are sent into a frenzy by a rousing rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” by local up-and-coming rapper Black Sharpie, accompanied by DJ Ted Ginn, Jr., who has the sickest drops in the business.
Carolina jumps to a 10-0 lead, but the Cardinals get back in it with their passing game. Josh Norman knocks down Palmer’s two-point conversion attempt to Michael Floyd to preserve the win.
Panthers win 26-24.