NFL Conference Championship Picks and Predictions From WhatIfSports.com image

NFL Conference Championship Predictions

NFL Conference Championship playoff predictions, including box scores and stats

WhatIfSports.com
January 14, 2014

Throughout the NFL playoffs, WhatIfSports.com's NFL simulation engine will provide you with predictions, box scores and statistics for every NFL game that week. The NFL simulation engine generates detailed information including the home team's chances of winning (Home Win %), average score and comprehensive box score link. If you want to share your new found NFL knowledge with friends and family, make sure to check out our NFL Widgets on the WhatIf To Go page or click on the social networking share bar located at the top and bottom of the article.

The statistical inputs to the thousands of NFL games simulated are based on rigorous analysis of each team's roster, depth chart and statistically based player ranking. Roster modifications have been made for injuries and suspensions and those players are not part of their team's game simulation.

To account for injuries and roster moves announced late in the week, we will be re-simulating some games on Thursdays throughout the 2013-14 NFL playoffs.

Check out our 2013 NFL Season-to-Date page to follow our accuracy week-to-week.

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AFC Conference Championship: Patriots at Broncos

Louisa May Alcott once penned, “Rivalry adds so much to the charms of one's conquests.” From the battles of Bird and Magic to the bouts of Rocky and Apollo, this axiom has held true in the world of sport, and is why the latest iteration of the Tom BradyPeyton Manning engagement headlines this weekend’s conference championships.

Also fueling this importance: the very real possibility that this 15th encounter between the respected arms may be its last. Manning and Brady are a combined 73 years old; moreover, reports surfaced over the weekend regarding a forced retirement for Manning dependent on a medical exam. If this indeed is the final confrontation for the field generals, it is one to be cherished, as few gridiron wars can equal the fireworks and fervor this clash produced.

A defeat would hardly damper the record-breaking season, and to greater extent, career, of Manning, given his phenomenal works in 2013. Alas, the stigma of falling short on the big stage would endure with a loss, which would leave the Tennessee product 5-10 in meetings with Brady. Worse, Manning would exit with a losing record. It seems asinine to boil down Manning’s brilliant career narrative to the outcome of the next few weeks; fair or not, it’s a circumstance that holds true. (Although Denver fans, rejoice. Sunday’s forecast is calling for clear skies and temperatures in the 50s, so we can table the discussion about a certain quarterback’s cold-weather merits.)

Brady’s reputation resides on the opposite end of the legacy gamut. With three rings under his belt, his standing in the prime-time environment is close to impervious. What he’s done this autumn and winter solidify that disposition. Despite losing his top five targets in the offseason and dealing with a backfield that displayed Butterfingers Syndrome, the two-time MVP directed the Patriots to an offensive onslaught this season, averaging 27.8 points per game (third-best in the league). Due to the assimilation process of his inexperienced receiving crew, Brady’s personal figures deteriorated this season. Don’t misconstrue that as actual decline, as Brady remains a formidable force under center.

While Sunday’s Mile High showdown serves as a celebration of quarterback play, let’s not diminish the impact of players not named Brady or Manning. New England finds itself at this juncture thanks to the recent harvest of LeGarrette Blount. Acquired last April, the former Buc was relatively quiet in the first three months of the season, resigned mostly to backup duty. However, it’s been a different tale the past three games, rushing for 431 yards and finding the end zone a whopping eight times. He’s also made contributions in the special teams arena on kickoff returns, with his Herculean frame proving tough to drag down. The Broncos were stout against terrain endeavors this year, allowing just 101.6 yards per contest (eighth-best in the NFL), but look for the Patriots to feature Blount early and often.

Stopping New England’s attack may appear too tall a task for a depleted Denver defense. Not only is All-Pro Von Miller done for the season, but front-line anchor Derek Wolfe remains out after experiencing seizure-like symptoms and Champ Bailey is a shell of his former self. This unit took another blow with cornerback Cliff Harris suffering a torn ACL against San Diego. Yet, in the face of these setbacks, the Broncos have demonstrated a newfound resistance, holding four of their past five opponents to under 260 total yards. Manning and the Denver offense get the acclaim, but the team will need another laudable showing from the D to punch their Super Bowl ticket on Sunday.

So who emerges victorious to claim the AFC crown? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com football simulation engine, the Broncos win 58.3 percent of the time by an average margin of 25-23.

AFC Conference Championship: Patriots at Broncos
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
New England Patriots41.723Boxscore
@ Denver Broncos58.325Simulate Game

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NFC Conference Championship: 49ers at Seahawks

Jim Harbaugh is making his third consecutive appearance in the NFC title game, while Pete Carroll will make his first.

Both coaches are known for stingy defenses and opportunistic offenses.

Seattle navigated the 2013 regular season as the league’s top defense against the pass (172 yards per game). The rush defense allowed the seventh fewest yards, but surrendered the fewest rushing touchdowns (four).

San Francisco also ranked among the top seven defenses in both rushing (fourth) and passing (seventh).

With the two teams so statistically on par with each other, naturally they split the season series. In Week 2, Seattle dismantled the 49ers, 29-3, at CenturyLink Field. Marshawn Lynch scored three touchdowns in that game. He ran for 98 yards and two TDs with 37 receiving yards and a score. The Seahawks were also able to capitalize on Colin Kaepernick's mistakes. Seattle scored 13 points off of three turnovers. San Francisco's quarterback threw three interceptions and lost one fumble.

In Week 14, Kaepernick only turned the ball over once and the 49ers eked out a 19-17 win. Other than taking care of the football, the biggest difference between a San Francisco win and loss was the use of Frank Gore. In the first meeting, Gore only managed 16 yards on nine carries. Gore racked up 110 rushing yards on 17 attempts in the rematch.

Another factor few people are commenting on is the return and impact of Michael Crabtree. The 49ers are undefeated since his return in December.

Anquan Boldin finishing with over 200 receiving yards in the season opener against the Packers, but without Crabtree in Week 2, the Seahawks shut Boldin down to the tune of one catch for seven yards. In the teams’ second meeting, with Crabtree, both receivers were targeted eight times and Boldin boasted 93 receiving yards on six catches.

According to our simulation engine’s 1,001 simulations, the Seahawks are projected to win 57.9 percent of the time by an average score of 19-17.

NFC Conference Championship: 49ers at Seahawks
MatchupWin%Avg ScoreWIS Interactive
San Francisco 49ers42.117Boxscore
@ Seattle Seahawks57.919Simulate Game

Joel Beall is the Assistant Content Manager for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jbeall@whatifsports.com.

Adam Meyer is a Contributor for WhatIfSports.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FOXSportsMeyer.

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