Prisco's Picks: Week 20

 
 
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WEEK
20
PETE PRISCO
Senior NFL Columnist
Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and can be seen throughout the week on CBS Sports' NFL shows. When he's not watching game tape you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
MATCHUP SCORE ANALYSIS
Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016
 
New England
Patriots
21
This is another version of Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. Or is it Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning? Does it matter? They are two greats who could be meeting for the final time in the playoffs with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. It doesn't get better than that. Brady is still playing at a high level, while Manning isn't what he used to be. But he also isn't as bad some critics would lead you to believe. Manning had nine drops last week in the victory over the Steelers. Nine. That's astounding, and anybody who said it's because his ball lacks velocity is being foolish. The Broncos beat the Patriots earlier this season, but that was with Brock Osweiler at quarterback, and the Patriots were really banged up in that one. Denver ran for 176 yards that day. They will need to do run it well again here to have a chance. The New England passing game plays fast with quick throws. That helps negate the pass rush. But I think Denver has the man-cover players to take away the quick throws. The Patriots will still move the ball, but it will be a late turnover that changes this one. It's a tight one all the way, but in the end the Broncos will pull off the upset.
Result: Denver Broncos 20, New England Patriots 18
Denver
Broncos
23
 
 
Arizona
Cardinals
26
They met in the playoffs last year, but that game featured Ryan Lindley at quarterback for Arizona, a player who was terrible that day. He is no longer with the team, playing one game for the Colts this season. The Cardinals threw for 82 yards that day, which won't be the case here. Carson Palmer and the passing game of Arizona are as good as any in the league. Coach Bruce Arians is an aggressive play-caller who won't back down. The Carolina defense was second in the league in yards per pass attempt, but Arizona was first in yards per attempt throwing it. Something will have to give. The key here will be the pressure from Carolina. They can rush from the inside really well, but they don't have a dominant edge rusher. That will be a problem against Palmer. For Carolina, look for them to try and pound the football. The Cardinals had some issues with the Green Bay running game last week, and Carolina's zone-read scheme can present some real problems. The Carolina line has had a good year, and Cam Newton is a good runner. He's also improved greatly as a passer. But I think Palmer will be the one to make a late play in the passing game to set up Arizona for the winning points. This is his time. The Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl.
Result: Arizona Cardinals 15, Carolina Panthers 49
Carolina
Panthers
23
 
 
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