The 2016 NFL Playoffs have had a few outrageous games so far, and the NFC and AFC championship games are already looking to be classic matchups. With the top two seeds in each conference advancing to the championship round, the four best teams in the regular season are still alive. While there were no upsets this year, each game has had its fair share of drama and entertainment. As posted last week, The Inquisitr went 3-1 in its NFL divisional round playoff picks. Here are the schedule, brackets, odds, and early predictions for next week’s 2016 NFL championship playoff round.
2016 NFL Playoffs Championship Round Schedule and Brackets
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016 at 3:05 p.m.)
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016 at 6:40 p.m.)
While the NFL playoff odds are going to change throughout the week based on injuries and how the bets are coming in, Football Locks has released early odds for each championship round playoff matchup.
Carolina Panthers: 3-points favorites over the Arizona Cardinals
New England Patriots: 3-point favorites over the Denver Broncos
Being the home team, it is understandable that the Panthers are three point favorites over the visiting Cardinals. They are fairly evenly matched teams, so the home field should give the Panthers the advantage. Being on the road, the Patriots are favored by three points over the Broncos. Since Denver gets three points for being at home, it is significant that New England is still favored to win.
Picks and Predictions
Based on current injuries for each team, here are picks for each game of the championship round of the 2016 NFL playoffs.
Carolina Panthers Over Arizona Cardinals
— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 18, 2016
While the Panthers and Cardinals were expected to be competitive teams this year, no one expected this to be the NFC championship matchup. After finishing the regular season with an almost perfect 15-1 record, the Panthers came into the playoffs as the favorite to be the Super Bowl representative from the NFC. While the Cardinals finished with a record of 13-3, their regular season ended with an embarrassing loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
In their respective divisional round playoff games, the Panthers and Cardinals both suffered scares towards the final quarter. After jumping out to a 31-0 lead over the Seahawks, the Panthers almost blew it in the second half and ended up winning by only seven points. The Cardinals almost lost to the Packers because of an Aaron Rodgers miracle. Fortunately, they won the coin toss in overtime and scored a touchdown before the Packers could even touch the ball.
The Panthers and Cardinals are extremely evenly matched football teams. In the regular season, the Panthers averaged 31.2 points per game, while the Cardinals averaged 30.6 points per game. The Panthers gave up 19.2 points per game, while the Cardinals gave up 19.6 points per game. Quarterback play from Newton and Palmer has been exceptional, and they can both make every throw on the field.
The difference in this game is going to come down to turnovers. The Panthers have a turnover differential of 20 on the season. The Cardinals have a turnover differential of nine. With the home-field advantage, an MVP season from Newton, and the ability to force more turnovers, the Carolina Panthers will win this game and advance to the Super Bowl.
Prediction: Carolina Panthers – 30, Arizona Cardinals – 24
Cardinals and Panthers haven't played this season. But it'll be AZ's third playoff trip to CAR since 2008. https://t.co/tHcKqufd0g
— AP NFL (@AP_NFL) January 17, 2016
New England Patriots Over Denver Broncos
— USA TODAY Sports (@USATODAYsports) January 18, 2016
As ESPN notes, this will be the 17th time that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will face each other. While the Patriots were in a position the entire season to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, they lost the spot in the final week of the season to the Broncos. For that reason, the AFC championship will take place in Denver, as opposed to New England. With multiple injuries to key offensive players, the Patriots lost three of their final five games. While the Broncos had to go back to Peyton Manning as their quarterback after backup Brock Osweiler failed to live up to expectations, he is not exactly playing great football.
In their respective divisional round playoff games, the Patriots comfortably defeated the Kansas City Chiefs by seven points. As reported by The Inquisitr, Patriots star wide receiver Julian Edelman returned, but his status for the game against the Broncos is unknown. While the Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 23-16, it was not an overly impressive win. Manning threw for 222 yards and no touchdowns. They were also facing a Steelers offense without their best wide receiver in Antonio Brown, and an injured Ben Roethlisberger.
With Edelman back for the Patriots and Rob Gronkowski looking dominate again, the Patriots are going to win this game. While Peyton Manning has had a great career, he is just not going to be able to keep pace with Brady and the Patriots prolific offense.
Prediction: New England Patriots – 27, Denver Broncos – 17
AFC title game will be 5th time the Broncos and Patriots meet in the playoffs. Broncos lead, 3-1, in those games.
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) January 18, 2016
While current odds, picks, and predictions are sure to change for the 2016 NFL championship round playoffs throughout the week, the schedule and brackets are now cemented. Look for the Panthers and Patriots to meet in the Super Bowl in three weeks.
[Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images]