Senior NFL Columnist

Ten things that intrigue me in Sunday's NFL title games

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Patriots QB Tom Brady vs. Broncos QB Peyton Manning: Does it get any better than seeing these two matched up for a shot at the Super Bowl? They've met three times in the playoffs, and Brady leads 2-1. Manning won the last playoff meeting. Can he make it two in a row? Or is Brady going back to his sixth Super Bowl?

Which of the two will be patient with the run? They are smart quarterbacks so when teams back off they both will check to a lot of runs. Can they be that patient in a game of this magnitude? Will one give in to the temptation against two-deep looks and try and attack down the field?

What will Bill Belichick throw at Manning? Belichick is a master at throwing different looks at quarterbacks. He's had some success at home against Manning in the playoffs. But Manning got the best of him at home the last time they met in the postseason.

Which young quarterback, San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick or Seattle's Russell Wilson, shines brightest on the big stage? They are both playoff tested, so that shouldn't be a factor here. But they are both facing top defenses. Who can limit the mistakes?

The Patriots' interior three vs. Denver defensive tackle Terrance Knighton: If the Patriots want to run the ball, they have to get Knighton blocked. He is a force against the run game and holds up well against doubles. Center Ryan Wendell will be key.

Seattle LT Russell Okung vs. San Francisco DE Justin Smith and OLB Aldon Smith: The 49ers have a fierce side of their line to attack the quarterback when the two Smiths come after you. Okung is a good left tackle, but right guard Michael Bowie was inserted into the lineup last week. They have to work together to handle the stunts of the Smiths.

Can San Francisco block Seahawks DT Brandon Mebane? He is disruptive to any run game, but when teams want to get their guards out to lead, he's even more disruptive if he gets penetration. Jonathan Goodwin has to have a big day at center for the 49ers.

Will the officials call it tight on the Seattle secondary? The Seahawks grab and hold as much as any secondary in the league. But they get away with a lot of it. So it's not a penalty if it's not called. How will the officials call it in this one?

How will the Seahawks use Richard Sherman? They have used him to mirror Anquan Boldin at times against San Francisco, but with Michael Crabtree back that might not be the case here. Sherman loves man-to-man challenges, but the Seahawks love to play a lot of Cover-3 looks.

What type of impact will Denver WR Wes Welker have against his former team? Welker missed time with injuries this season, and is playing with a special helmet because of concussion problems, but he is still a big part of what the Broncos do on offense. His ability to win in the slot will be critical for Manning.

 
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