Ranking Cities Sports Title Droughts

It has been a wild couple of years in sports in terms of ending title droughts. In 2016, Cleveland won its first championship in any sport in over half a century and the Chicago Cubs broke a 108-year curse by winning the World Series. In 2017, the Houston Astros won their first ever World Series title. 2018 has already seen the Philadelphia Eagles win a long-awaited championship and the Washington Capitals finally bring home the Stanley Cup. Some of the most historic title droughts in all of sports have ended in recent years, begging the question of which cities remain the most tortured for a title. Here is my top ten.

10. Detroit
Teams: Lions (NFL), Pistons (NBA), Red Wings (NHL), Tigers (MLB),
Last title: 2008

It has only been a decade since a Detroit team has won a title, but the history of sports success in the Motor City is not a great one. The Lions have famously (or infamously) never won a Super Bowl, or even appeared in one. They also hold the NFL record for most consecutive playoff losses. Baseball is a little more promising because the Tigers have won before, three times actually, but the last World Series victory came in 1984. The Pistons have had some great teams, but have also been one of the worst run NBA franchises in the last ten years. In the NHL, the Red Wings represent the true bright spot. Detroit has hoisted the Stanley Cup twice since the turn of the century. It hasn’t been that long for Detroit, but it might be a while before one of these four teams wins another title.

9. Indianapolis
Teams: Colts (NFL), Pacers (NBA)
Last title: 2006

Only two teams reside in Indianapolis and the Colts have won a title. The Peyton Manning era is still one fans could look back on proudly, but for a long time the Colts were one of the most tortured franchises in the NFL. They have resumed that post since then. For a city as crazy about basketball as Indy, zero NBA titles is a real bummer as well. The Pacers have only reached the NBA finals once in franchise history losing to the Shaq and Kobe Lakers. Both the Colts and Pacers have been competitive in recent years as well, but always end up faltering in the playoffs, leaving a bitter taste in fans’ mouths.

8. Charlotte
Teams: Hurricanes (NHL), Hornets (NBA), Panthers (NFL)
Last title: 2006

It has also been 12 years since Charlotte has won a title, but they get the edge for having three teams as opposed to Indy’s two. The Hornets have been one of the worst franchises in NBA history. It has been 30 years since the Hornets were founded and the team has never so much as won a division title. Football has treated fans a little better, as the Panthers did reach the Super Bowl back in 2003. They came agonizingly close to beating that Brady guy, but Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winner as time expired to beat Carolina. The Hurricanes are the only team in Charlotte to win a title. After losing in the 2002 Stanley Cup final, Carolina broke through in 2006 to lift the cup. Still, just one title between three teams over the past 30 years is a poor return.

7. Nashville
Teams: Predators (NHL), Titans (NFL)
Last title: N/A

If you also lump in the Memphis Grizzles, the Tennessee would likely move up a few spots on this list. Seeing as Memphis and Nashville are on opposite sides of the state though, it did not seem too fair. Both teams moved to town in 1997, but the Predators came close to bringing home a title in 2017. On the other hand, the Titans made the playoffs in 2017 for the first time in nearly ten years. What holds Nashville back is how new of a sports city it is. It has only had pro teams for 20 years, so the lack of a title is not totally shocking. Only one appearance in a finals setting is more than enough to qualify for this list though.

6. Cincinnati
Teams: Bengals (NFL), Reds (MLB)
Last title: 1990

Oh, where to begin with Cincinnati. For one, the Bengals have been a punch line in the NFL for quite some time. Head coach Marvin Lewis took over in 2003 and has taken the team to the playoffs seven times in his tenure. He is also 0-7 in the postseason. It has been 27 years since Cincy has won a playoff game, the longest active streak in the league. The Bengals weren’t always this way though. In the ’80s, Cincinnati made it to two Super Bowls, both times losing by less than a touchdown to the Joe Montana led 49ers. The Reds haven’t been a whole lot better. Since winning the World Series in 1990, Cincy’s baseball team has only made the playoffs four times. With the Bengals looking like an average team and the Reds in the middle of a rebuild, it could be a while before Cincinnati celebrates another championship.

5. San Diego
Teams: Padres (MLB), Chargers (NFL)
Last title: N/A

Technically, there is only one pro team still in San Deigo, but to not include the struggles of the Chargers in evaluating the drought this city has gone through would be unfair. I actually think the fact the Chargers left makes life as a fan in this city even more torturous. Boasting one of the greatest offenses in NFL history, San Diego never managed to reach a Super Bowl. Its lone appearance was a blowout loss to the 49ers in 1994. Even during the early 2000s, it seemed like the Chargers would finally break through, but never managed to reach the Super Bowl. For the Padres, opportunities for postseason success have been few and far between. In 49 years as a franchise, the Padres have made the playoffs just five times, including two different losses in the World Series. San Diego has long awaited a title and now will have an even tougher time securing one with only the Padres left in town.

4. Phoenix
Teams: Cardinals (NFL), Coyotes (NHL), Diamondbacks (MLB), Suns (NBA)
Last title: 2001

It has been 17 years since the largest city in Arizona brought home a sports championship. The Cardinals came agonizingly close in 2009 before falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a wild Super Bowl. The Suns haven’t been good in years, but still remember the days of Charles Barkley and Steve Nash fondly. Neither of the ever managed to bring home a title. The Coyotes have never made it to a Stanley Cup final, much less won one. That leaves the Diamondbacks, who won the cities last championship in 2001. It is the only title in the city’s history. The Cardinals won an NFL Championship in 1947, but that was actually while the team was located in Chicago. Only one title between four teams is tough for fans to swallow and it does not seem like any of them are close to a title for a least a few more years.

3. Atlanta
Teams: Hawks (NBA), Falcons (NFL), Braves (MLB),
Last title: 1995

Between the Hawks, Falcons and Braves, Atlanta has only brought home one title in the history of sports in the city. The Braves broke through in 1995, which isn’t really that long ago, but this city definitely knows what it is like to want a title. The Hawks have never made it to the NBA Finals while in Atlanta. The 2016 Falcons made it to the Super Bowl and blew the largest lead in the history of the game. It marked the second time the Falcons lost in the championship. Looking at the Braves, they lost four other World Series during the ’90s. Had it not been for that World Series in ’95, Atlanta might very well top this list.

2. Buffalo
Teams: Bills (NFL), Sabres (NHL)
Last title: N/A

Western New York is home to one of the most passionate fan bases in all of sports. The aptly named “Bills Mafia” provides a fun home field advantage whenever the Bills are hosting. Sabres fans have suffered through many years of woeful play on the ice, but still support the team nonetheless. Between these two franchises, Buffalo has appeared in six different championships, winning none of them. The Bills came up short in four consecutive Super Bowls! Talk about torture for fans. The Sabres made two different runs to the Stanley Cup final over the years, but fell short in both. It was the NHL team who made Buffalo’s last championship appearance in 1999. Up until last year, the Bills hadn’t even been to the playoffs since 1999. What holds Buffalo back from the top spot is the fact that the city only has two teams.

1. Minneapolis
Teams: Timberwolves (NBA), Twins (MLB), Wild (NHL), Vikings (NFL)
Last title: 1991

21 years ago was the last time a team from the Twin Cities won a title. Minneapolis is home to some of the most tortured fan bases in sports. On one hand, you have the Vikings. The Purple People Eaters lost four Super Bowls from 1969 to 1976. The Vikings have never made it back to the big game since their loss in ’76. It seemed like they would in 1998, with a historically good offense, only to lose in their first playoff game that year. Then there are the Timberwolves. Minnesota finally broke the second longest playoff drought in NBA history in 2018 after 13 years of failing to qualify. In a league where more than half the teams make it to the postseason, that is quite a feat. The Wild haven’t been in town long, but like the Timberwolves, have never even reached the finals. The Twins are the only team in town with a title, but have not returned to the World Series. While Minneapolis has won a title, none of the teams in the city have even reached the championship stage in the 27 years since. This city is starved for a title and well-deserving of the top spot on our list.

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NFL Playoff Preview: Championship Sunday

Welcome to the final four. The conference championships. There is nothing quite like it. The Super Bowl is always a great spectacle, but often these games are even more exciting to watch. Today we will get to witness all three MVP candidates on display, the best rivalry in football over the last 15 years and some of the most dynamic defensive playmakers the game has to offer. And all of it comes with a trip to Santa Clara on the line.

New England vs. Denver

Peyton_Manning
Manning has a career record of 12-13 in the playoffs. 

When you think of NFL MVP, it is hard not to think of Peyton Manning. The Broncos signal caller has won the award more times than anyone else in history, with five such distinctions. However, he is the only quarterback in Sunday’s games that isn’t in contention for this year’s award.

 

Tom Brady on the other hand is right in the thick of anpther MVP-caliber campaign. Even with some of his top weapons missing time this year, Brady managed to steer New England to a first round bye and has them playing some spectacular football yet again.

This game is being billed as yet another class Manning-Brady matchup but in reality, this is more a battle between Brady and the Denver defense. The last time Denver and New England met it was Week 12 at Mile High. The Denver defense did not do much to contain Brady that day, as he threw for 280 yards and three scores. However, the Broncos knocked Brady around a lot, hitting him on nine occasions, three of them being sacks. The Patriots also had no running game to speak of, as LeGarrette Blount led the way in rushing for New England with a measly 27 yards on the ground. Brady also struggled to find the mark in that game, completing only 54.7 percent of his passes.

Tom_Brady
Brady is 11-5 in his career against Manning, but is only 2-6 in career playing in Denver.

Today is guaranteed to be different though as New England has a different cast of characters in place. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are back healthy, after not competing in their previous contest with Denver. However, Blount and now middle linebacker Jerrod Mayo will not be suiting up for this one, as both are on season-ending injured reserve.

 

The most interesting wrinkle though is that Manning will be starting this game. In that Week 12 showdown, Brock Osweiler started and defeated the Pats. He had a lot of help from his running game, as Denver amassed 179 yards on the ground at a clip of 5.6 yards per carry, but Osweiler took a beating. If the Pats generate the same amount of pressure on Manning, I think he will either be forced into some mistakes or be knocked out of the contest.

In the end, I don’t think The Sheriff has enough left in the tank to outduel The Golden Boy one last time. I think it will be an extremely close game that goes down to the wire as both defenses win the day. I think even with a depleted arsenal, Brady will work enough magic to eke out a win and earn his first career playoff victory in Denver, 24-21. Sad day as this will also probably mark the end of an era.

Arizona vs. Carolina

Even with the 17th edition of Manning-Brady in store for us, I think this is the game of the weekend to watch. This game is equal parts high-flying offense, dynamic defense and attitude.

Cam_Newton
Newton suffered his last home loss on November 16, 2014. He is 12-0 in Charlotte since.

Enter Cam Newton into his first ever NFC Championship game. He is the front-runner for the MVP award this season with his ability to deceive and out-think defenses. Newton is a supreme athlete and always has been. However, this season saw SuperCam evolve into a much better quarterback. He set a career-high in touchdown passes with 35 and even slightly cut down on his turnovers. He also set new marks for Total QBR and passer rating. All of that culminated in his dominant performance against Seattle last week.

 

He has still kept his athleticism as an often-used weapon. Newton racked up 636 yards on the ground and scored 10 times when he kept it himself. Couple that with Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert; suddenly, this Carolina ground game is very difficult to stop.

The Panthers will need to control the clock as much as possible in this game as well, mainly to keep Carson Palmer off the field. Palmer struggled a little against Green Bay last week, but that should not discount the MVP-like season he had.

Editor’s note: It was really difficult to think of other ways to describe Palmer and Newton as they both have a lot in common. Both are first number one overall picks and both won Heisman trophies in college. 

Carson_Palmer
This will only be Palmer’s fourth career playoff game.

Palmer was downright lethal this year, completing nearly 64 percent of his passes while throwing for a career high in yards. The 36-year old was beyond effective when throwing the ball this season as well, posting a league-high 8.7 yards per attempt average. Palmer tossed the same number of touchdowns as Newton this year too. He also piloted an Arizona offense that led the NFL in yards per game and was second in scoring only to Carolina. In short, we could be in line for a shootout.

 

And we probably would be, if it wasn’t for the defenses lining up across from these quarterbacks. Carolina has four Pro Bowlers on their defense and Arizona has three of their own. These two defenses ranked fifth and sixth in yards per game allowed and sixth and seventh in scoring.

One of the great matchups of the weekend will be Larry Fitzgerald against Josh Norman. Fitzgerald is coming of a worldly performance out in the desert while Norman developed into one of the league’s premier shutdown corners. Past Norman though, this is a Carolina secondary that could be vulnerable to the spread offense Arizona will run. Seattle exploited the Panthers’ lack of depth in the divisional round. I think the Cardinals will do the same, getting the ball to John Brown and Michael Floyd early and often.

Between that and the overall speed of this Cardinal defense, I think Arizona will be heading to Santa Clara. Cardinals upset the Panthers at home, 27-21.

Mid-season NFL Playoff Picks

This is painful. I looked back at my preseason playoff picks for the 2015 NFL season and it was ugly. I had the Colts winning the AFC and the Chiefs making it as a strong wildcard team. In the NFC, I had Dallas as the third team in and the Carolina Panthers are nowhere to be found.

Obviously, I made some major gaffes in picking my preseason playoff field. Some of it was due to unexpected injuries. Others were me buying into the hype of some offseason moves. All in all, I have a laundry list of excuses (similar to the one I have for why my fantasy team is so bad this year).

Here we are now though in the middle of the season with every team having played at least eight games. With the second half of the season about to get underway, it is time for me to predict how the season will end. Hopefully, this head start will allow me to do a bit better with these.

AFC Playoffs
1. Cincinnati (14-2)
2. New England (14-2)
3. Denver (13-3)
4. Indianapolis (8-8)
5. New York (10-6)
6. Pittsburgh (9-7)

NFC Playoffs
1. Carolina (14-2)
2. Green Bay (13-3)
3. Arizona (12-4)
4. New York (9-7)
5. Minnesota (12-4)
6. Atlanta (11-5)

For the AFC, Cincy wins the conference because it wins the tiebreaker over the Pats for record in common games. Denver slips up just a little bit too much to earn the first round bye. The Jets take advantage of a fairly easy schedule down the stretch to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2011. Pittsburgh, despite all of their injuries, has games against the Browns (twice) Colts and Ravens. That allows them to sneak into that last spot.

Over in the NFC though, things are much tighter. The Giants don’t really belong but a Week 17 win against the Eagles locks up the division for them. Carolina continues its dominance on its way to the top spot. Green Bay manages to rebound down the stretch and takes the first weekend of the playoffs off. Arizona outlasts the rest of the rugged NFC West to advance to the postseason once again, this year hopefully with Carson Palmer. Minnesota and Atlanta prove to be the best of the rest and lock up wildcard berths.

Adrian PetersonWildcard
Denver over Pittsburgh
New York over Indianapolis
Arizona over Atlanta
Minnesota over New York

Pittsburgh made the postseason but for the second straight year, not having LeVeon Bell proves to be too much for the Steelers to overcome. The Jets pick up their second win over Andrew Luck and Co. on the year behind a dominant ground game and an opportunistic defense. The Cardinals prove to have way too much for that Atlanta offensive line to handle as Matt Ryan has a rough day on the road. Adrian Peterson runs all over the Giants and the Vikings defense finds a way to limit Odell Beckham Jr. enough to get the win.

Peyton_ManningDivisional
Cincinnati over New York
New England over Denver
Carolina over Minnesota
Arizona over Green Bay

Andy Dalton finally gets his first playoff win as the Jets offense sputters on the road. The game is close but Tyler Eifert ends up being the deciding factor. After beating New England at home in the regular season, Denver fails to take round two in Foxborough. Tom Brady does not lose to Peyton Manning twice in one year. The Carolina defense bottles up Peterson and forces Teddy Bridgewater to beat them with his arm. The Vikings offense is simply not made for that. Despite going on the road, that Arizona defense causes some issues for Aaron Rodgers and the lack of a Packers running game shows.

Tom BradyChampionship
New England over Cincinnati
Carolina over Arizona

The AFC Championship game comes down to some simply math. Tom Brady is greater than Andy Dalton and the 37-year old out-duels the Red Rifle to return to the Super Bowl. The defense manages to bend but not break against the Cincy offense. Super Cam continues his super season. He ends up coming nowhere near the MVP award but he is closing in on the Lombardi trophy. Carolina’s offense runs through him, Jonathan Stewart and Greg Olsen. The real reason that the Panthers are Super Bowl bound is that defense though. It managed bottled up the Cardinal running game and pressured Carson Palmer all day without having to truly blitz.

Cam_NewtonSuper Bowl
Carolina over New England

In a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVIII, Carolina and New England meet with the Lombardi Trophy on the line. This time though, its the Panthers who walk away having earned a ring. Carolina is able to pressure Brady without truly having to blitz, which is the same way the Giants beat him in the Super Bowl in past years. The Panthers are so deep along their defensive line, especially after getting Charles Johnson back midseason. The Patriots find themselves missing change of pace runner and pass-catching specialist Dion Lewis as they fail to generate much of a ground game. Cam Newton’s running abilities prove to be something New England struggles to contain as well. Julian Edelman has a big game but the Panthers limit Rob Gronkowski en route to the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl win.

Carolina Cruisin’

North Carolina. Known for barbecue, country music and hard-nosed football. Don’t look now, but the Carolina Panthers are bringing back an old-school style of play and they are really good at it.

Everything you hear about NFL offenses these days revolves around passing. In fact, the league is on pace to beat the record set in 2013 for most pass attempts per game across the entire league. At the same time, NFL teams are running the ball at a record-low rate. 2015 is on pace to be the fewest rushing attempts per game, breaking the previous low set in 2014, which beat the low mark set in 2013 before that. In short, passing is trending upwards and running is trending downwards.

Panthers logoThat doesn’t seem to bother the Panthers though, who are determined to win by running the football. They have more rush attempts per game than anyone else in the league through the first eight weeks of the season. And they are pretty successful too as they lead the league in ground yards per game. This team has the look of the 2013 Seahawks, with a mobile quarterback and strong defense, except they rely even more heavily on the run.

On the other hand, Carolina seems pretty adverse to throwing the ball. The Panthers are attempting the fifth fewest passes per game and have the third fewest passing yards per game. Usually that is a recipe for disaster but these boys from Charlotte seem intent on bucking the trend.

Oh and did I mention that Carolina is undefeated. This is a winning brand of football.

Cam_Newton
Newton and the Panthers already have the same number of wins they did a season ago.

At the helm of the offense is Cam Newton. The Auburn product has taken a little while to get to this point. Not so long ago, pundits criticized his maturity and questioned if he had the right tools to be an NFL quarterback. “Super Cam” is far from conventional but he is effective nonetheless.

Strictly looking at Newton’s stats without taking into consideration all sides of his game limits the understanding of how important a piece he has been this year for the Carolina offense. His completion percentage ranks second to last among qualified passers, only above Ryan Mallet’s. However, the Panthers rank seventh in the league in drop percentage, which certainly hurts Newton’s completion percentage.

Newton also ranks 28th out of 33 quarterbacks in yards per game average, which is far from stellar. However, his total yardage per game is much better. Cam has always been good with his legs and he leads all quarterbacks with 40.9 rushing yards per game. He also ranks 13th in the league in terms of rushing first downs. That’s right. In the league.

When you factor in Newton’s ability to use his athleticism to extend plays and drives, his short comings as a passer become a little more excusable, especially when he is punching in points. Newton has 11 touchdown passes on the year so far. He also has four rushing touchdowns, which ranks him fourth among all players. For passing and running touchdowns, Newton ranks tied for sixth in combined scores among quarterbacks. Clearly, the Panthers are doing something right because they are scoring the fourth most points per game.

Luke Kuechly
Kuechly lead the NFL in tackles in 2014.

While Carolina might be denying convention on offense, the defense is truly the unit to watch. They rank ninth in yards per game allowed and tenth in points per game allowed. They have played three games though without captain Luke Kuechly, who is still somehow in the top 50 for tackles, even though he has only played four games. Mario Addison, Shaq Thompson and Dwon Edwards have all missed time as well. Carolina has been one of the better defensive teams in the league despite all the injuries to its front seven. For a pass rush that already stacks up well with 20 sacks in seven games, getting healthy is bound to make it even better.

That defense is good at giving the ball back to the offense. Carolina is third in turnovers generated per game. This Panthers defensive unit is gritty and seems to be getting better as the year goes on.

It is far from perfect but it has worked thus far. It is scary to think that the Panthers have room to improve as well if Cam can improve on his accuracy and the receivers stop dropping the ball. With all of that room to improve, it is ridiculous that the Panthers have won 12 of their last 13 games dating back to last year without being seen as a complete team. This team has the mental toughness to be a true contender, as shown in a fourth quarter road comeback victory against Seattle and a tense overtime win against the Colts.

Carolina has officially put the rest of the league on alert with their gritty and old fashioned play so far. The question now is can anyone stop them.

NFL Divisional round predictions

The Wildcard round featured storied rivalries and entertaining finishes. This weekend though gives us some of the best storylines of the season. We will see Tom Brady face off with the team that has given him so much trouble in the playoffs when Joe Flacco and the Ravens come to town. Two quarterbacks who have greatly changed how the position is viewed will share the field in Seattle when Russell Wilson’s Seahawks host Cam Newton’s Panthers. Two MVP candidates square off as a hobbled Aaron Rodgers takes on Tony Romo’s Cowboys at the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. The best though is the showdown in Denver between golden boy quarterbacks of present and future. Andrew Luck battles the man he replaced in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning, when the Broncos match up with the Colts. This is Manning’s first playoff game ever against the franchise that drafted him in 1998. Now it is time to break down these divisional round games and tell you who will be advancing to the conference championship.

I will start in New England with the Patriots and Ravens will play for the second time in three years in the playoffs. The last time these two teams met, the Pats lost in Foxboro as Baltimore continued its run to the Super Bowl. This time around will be very different though. This New England defense resembles nothing that it did two years ago. There are a couple of holdovers but the biggest additions include corners Brandon Browner and Darelle Revis. Those two alone allow Bill Belichick to pressure the quarterback without safety help for his corners. Joe Flacco has been on a quite a run of late in the playoffs but it will end in Foxboro. Belichick will be sending pressure Flacco’s way all game long and he will emphasize shutting down the Ravens rushing attack as Pittsburgh did a week ago. I think Brady will exorcise some demons and key on a Baltimore secondary that struggled throughout the regular season. Look for Tim Wright and Rob Gronkowski to have big games. The Ravens are a talented enough team to keep the game close but I think New England will pull away late and win 27-14.

Flipping to the NFC now, many are calling this a mirror image game. Seattle and Carolina play very similar styles of football relying heavily on the defense to make plays and the offense to kill the clock with an explosive running game. At the helm, both squads have talented, mobile quarterbacks, who can give defensive coordinators nightmares when trying to game plan against them. The Panthers have been on a hot streak entering the playoffs and continued it last week with a commanding win over Arizona. The score was closer than the game ever seemed. Seattle had the week off and should be ready for the former Heisman winner. Saturday’s game will be very scrappy and I expect some turnovers. Seattle had the best defense in the league and Carolina’s was no slouch either ranking tenth. The first half will be a lot shifting momentum with both teams exchanging field goals. The Panthers might be the underdog but this team came close to upending Seattle earlier this season. This game will go down to the wire and I think in the end Russell Wilson’s ability to make plays outside the pocket will be too much for Carolina to handle. In this defensive battle will be low scoring and finish 19-13, Seahawks on top. When all is said and done, Seattle should be set to host its second straight NFC Championship game.

Dallas will travel north to take on Green Bay in the other NFC divisional round game to travels to Seattle. This should be an exciting game to watch. The Cowboys will need to start fast in this one if they have any hopes of surviving until the next round. They fell behind early and were lucky to escape with a win over Detroit. This game could be much easier for Dallas though than was initially thought if Aaron Rodgers is truly not at 100% with a serious calf injury. However, Rodgers was clearly hobbled in his game against Detroit two weeks ago and still led the Packers to a victory. Yet, the key to this game will be the Packers’ defensive front. The Lions laid out the blueprint to beat the Cowboys last week getting after Tony Romo and limiting Demarco Murray’s ability to break long runs. Romo was sacked six times, Murray averaged less than four yards per carry and it was clear Dallas struggled. I think Green Bay will come out with a plan early to get after Romo. Meanwhile, Dallas’ defense ranked in the bottom quarter of the league for passing yards allowed. I think Rodgers gets the Packers out to an early lead that the Cowboys, as good as they can be, are unable to overcome. Green Bay wins 34-28.

The last game pits two quarterbacks desperate for a playoff win. Peyton Manning’s career is winding down and his critics have always pointed out Manning’s struggles in the playoffs. On the other hand, Andrew Luck has burst onto the scene and has be called a great quarterback but the doubters still have yet to see Luck take his team past the divisional round of the playoffs. When the Colts visit the Broncos, we should see two offenses heading in completely different directions. Indy has struggled running the ball all year and Denver’s defense ranked second during the regular season for rushing yards allowed. This game will fall squarely on the shoulders of the former Stanford quarterback if Indianapolis is going to stand a chance in this game. Luck has the ability to put up incredible numbers but he has also been turnover prone of late. He will need to play mistake free to give the Colts a chance. For Denver though, this game will be about running the football. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase completely restructured Denver’s offense down the stretch this season to rely heavily on the running game, taking the weight off Manning. The Broncos will want to keep the ball out of Luck’s hands as much as possible and simply wear the Colts defense out with C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman. This approach should make also negate the Colts pass rush, which registered an impressive 41 sacks this season. This should be an interesting game but in the end, I think the quarterback of the present holds off the quarterback of the future. Broncos win 31-21.

So my prediction is that we will see the Packers travel to Seattle and another round of Brady versus Manning in the conference championship. Let me know if you think I completely overlooked something or you have a different idea of how next weekend will look. Keep an eye for next week’s predictions as well. Enjoy all of these great matchups this weekend.