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QB duel, coaching feud make for riveting title games | New York Post

The main event: Patriots versus Broncos — otherwise known as Peyton versus Tom — in the AFC Championship Game. The undercard, the heavyweight bloodbath which follows: 49ers versus Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. The Road to Super Bowl XLVIII and MetLife Stadium has its final stops in Denver and Seattle. If Peyton versus Tom is the friendly rivalry, then Jim Harbaugh against Pete Carroll and the 49ers versus Seahawks is the unfriendly rivalry. AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME. Magic vs. Bird. Ali vs Frazier. Peyton vs. Tom. Armageddon again. It is a game Peyton Manning cannot afford to lose against Tom Brady. This is The Legacy Game. Two legacies, especially Manning’s, one Super Bowl berth on the line. This is The Greatest Game. Manning has a chance to be remembered as the greatest quarterback of all time, or the greatest quarterback to win only one Super Bowl. He has a chance to be the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different franchises, or be remembered mostly as the greatest regular-season quarterback in history. He is 10-11 in the playoffs and nothing short of 11-11 at the end of what was arguably the greatest single season (55 touchdowns) in quarterback history can save him from the slings and arrows that are certain to pierce his Adam’s apple if he fails, or worse, chokes. Brady hasn’t won a Super Bowl in a decade, but he has won three, which means all the pressure is on Peyton. Peyton is the greatest corporate pitchman in NFL history, but it is still up in the air as to whether he or Tom will be remembered as the greatest quarterback of their generation. Brady is 10-4 against Peyton, 2-1 in the playoffs, and this will be the latest and the greatest mano-a-mano showdown between them. If you have an appetite for a juicy subplot, Brady has a chance to avenge his Super Bowl XLII and XLVI heartbreaks administered by Peyton’s Little Brother Eli. Manning endured four neck fusion surgeries and an emotional parting with the city of Indianapolis to get himself back to within 60 minutes of his third Super Bowl. He is rested following the first-round bye, but is he ready for whatever Bill Belichick and Mother Nature will have in store for him? Brady has a history of heating up in the cold. Peyton has a history of freezing. The balance of power shifted when Wes Welker left Tom for Peyton, but it may have shifted again with LaGarrette Blount emerging as the kind of smashmouth option that can keep Peyton off the field and antsy and agitated. Brady didn’t throw a single touchdown pass against the Colts because he didn’t need to throw a single touchdown pass against the Colts. The Broncos have been stout against the run — Ryan Mathews (ankle) was a non-factor Sunday — but Blount becomes the X-factor because play-caller Josh McDaniels will look to make Brady that much more dangerous by giving him balance. The Patriots have the look of a team that is peaking at the right time. The Broncos will be heartened by Knowshon Moreno’s 224-yard monster rushing night in the Patriots’ epic comeback from a 24-0 halftime deficit and 34-31 overtime win two months ago in Foxborough, Mass. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio was interim coach for that one while John Fox was recovering from a heart procedure. When he coached the Panthers, Fox lost a Super Bowl to Bill Belichick. The Broncos won’t have the disruptive Von Miller this time, so there will be more of a pass-rush burden on Shaun Phillips and Malik Jackson. On the other hand, Brady won’t have tight end Rob Gronkowski to throw to, so running back Shane Vereen will undoubtedly get more opportunity. Brady will be encouraged by the way Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen shredded the Broncos secondary in the fourth quarter. Much will be made of Danny Amendola not filling Welker’s shoes, but it has been Julian Edelman who has helped fill the void. Brady’s epic comeback was aided by Del Rio losing cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the last play of the first half with a shoulder injury. Brady completed 34-of-50 passes for 344 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions, while Manning was 19 for 36 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Of course Tom was better: the wind chill was six degrees. The game was decided on a fluke play: Tony Carter ran into Ryan Allen’s punt after it bounced, Nate Ebner recovered at the Broncos’ 13-yard line, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 31-yard field goal with 1:56 left in overtime. Demaryius Thomas figures to be more of a factor this time, although he’s likely to be shadowed by Aqib Talib, the classic big cornerback required to match up against the big receivers. Welker (4-41) and Eric Decker (1-5) will almost certainly be more involved, and for the first time since the Dallas Clark days in Indianapolis, Manning will have the advantage at tight end in Julius Thomas. Peyton vs. Tom. Tom vs. Peyton. The heavyweight championship of the quarterback position. The heavyweight championship of the other. NFC CHAMPIONSHIP. Hide the women and children. The Seahawks hate the 49ers. The 49ers hate the Seahawks. This enmity is such that this one now rivals, if not exceeds, Ravens-Steelers. And we’re not even counting the postgame handshake between Carroll and Harbaugh, which could be as physical as the game itself. Harbaugh, when he was the Stanford coach, tried a 2-point conversion late in a 55-21 beatdown of Carroll’s USC team at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 2009. That prompted Carroll’s famous, “What’s your deal?” postgame greeting for Harbaugh, and Harbaugh responding, “What’s your deal?” When Harbaugh seemed to tweak the Seahawks for five PED player violations, one of the culprits, cornerback Brandon Browner said: “He’s never going to be out there lined up against me. I wish he could. I’d wring his neck.” Golden Tate, who had been fined $21,000 for an illegal blindside hit on Sean Lee, said: “I would try to give him the Sean Lee treatment.” Seahawks Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin played for Harbaugh at Stanford. Following the Seahawks’ victory over the Niners in September, Sherman charges Harbaugh ignored him after the game. Harbaugh said it wasn’t true. “I guess sportsmanship doesn’t go both ways,” Sherman said. They might as well play this one in the parking lot, without shoulder pads and helmets. This is a throwback game that likely will be decided in the trenches … or by which quarterback, Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick, is more resourceful. This is a testosterone-fueled Machismo Bowl that will require vigilance by the officials, coaches, trainers, team doctors and independent neurologists to prevent it from being remembered as a Concussion Bowl. This is Harbaugh and the 49ers-against-the-world, an ear-splitting world where the Seahawks’ 12th Man will be an odds-on favorite to set a new decibel record at CenturyLink. Standing up to Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Mode” will demand the defiant, belligerent 49ers defense show up in full Beast Mode itself. Much will be made of the 49ers being out scored 71-16 in their last two visits to Seattle, but Kaepernick did not have Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin together in those games. This is why Kaepernick says: “That’s in the past.” The Panthers were so obsessed with taking away Crabtree, back from his Achilles injury, Boldin notched his fourth 100-yard game in his last seven postseason games. Hard to believe Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome traded Boldin away for a sixth-round draft pick. Boldin is a snarling, clutch gladiator who will be seen jawing and woofing back at the Seahawks’ intimidating Legion of Boom secondary, the best and most boisterous in the land. Kaepernick also has tight end Vernon Davis at his disposal, by the way. The 49ers are dangerous not only because of their physical toughness, but because of their mental toughness as well. Remember, this is their third consecutive NFC Championship Game appearance. Wilson will need to be better than he has been over the last month, but he better not be counting on receiver Percy Harvin to ride to the rescue if the Saints game is any indication. In the Seahawks’ 42-13 demolition o
f the 49ers late in 2012, Wilson threw four touchdown passes with one interception and was rushed six times for 29 yards while Lynch rushed 26 times for 111 yards and a touchdown. Kaepernick was 19 for 36 passing, good for 244 yards, one touchdown, one interception and rushed seven times for 31 yards. It should be pointed out Seahawks hulking safety Kam Chancellor knocked Davis (concussion) out of the game in the first quarter. Running back Frank Gore (6 carries, 28 yards) was invisible. In the Seahawks’ 29-3 dismantling of the 49ers in September, Kaepernick was 13-of-28 for 127 yards and three interceptions and had nine carries for 87 yards. His passer rating? 20.1. Gore was 9-16 rushing. Sherman limited Boldin to a single catch for seven yards. Davis was 3-20 receiving. “We are not going to win games if I play like that,” Kaepernick said afterward. Lynch, meanwhile, was carried 28 times for 98 yards with two touchdowns and was on the receiving end of a third touchdown. Wilson completed 8 of 19 passes for 142 yards, one touchdown, one interception and had 10 rushes for 33 yards. The 49ers extracted a measure of revenge with a 19-17 victory last month at Candlestick. But this game won’t be at Candlestick. Harbaugh owns a 6-3 head-to-head edge over Carroll — 4-2 in the pros, 2-1 in college. It’s nice to see the four best teams, although the Patriots are debatable. Both games are very compelling. Two classic offensive AFC teams and two blood and guts NFC teams. Both matchups are full of side stories and have the potential to be classic games. The super bowl should be a classic boxer/puncher matchup. Let’s hope the weather is good, and cold, and there are no serious injuries to the two finalists. @ opaque/971bbbb8-31a9-11e3-ba92-000f20980440 LOL what a loser, did you hear Adam Schefter speak about the giants today , how lucky they where to get those two SB wins, and everyone made ELI out to be this elite QB when he isn’t even close, Giants got lucky in both game everyone knows it but you idiot Giant fans, you should be thanking David Tyree’s helmet and Wes Welker for those superbowl wins. @ opaque/971bbbb8-31a9-11e3-ba92-000f20980440 A couple of lucky plays is not “having their number.”  At least your Giants are enjoying some golf and warm weather this time of year. Sorry you have nobody to root for in January.   (I’m saving this message so I can post it next January too.)
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