It's another lonely Conference Championship weekend for Denver Broncos fans during the NFL Playoffs. In fact, it will be six years to the day that the Broncos last played in the AFC Championship game: Jan. 22, 2006. But, as we all know, there were no rapturous celebrations for the Broncos going to the Super Bowl since that didn't happen. The Pittsburgh Steelers picked up the 34-17 victory and then went on their merry way to defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, 21-10. A few months later, the Broncos drafted Jay Cutler and the downward spiral for Mike Shanahan and the Broncos organization began -- but that's a different story for another day.
Related: Underestimate The Ravens And Eli Manning At Your Own Peril
The Broncos' loss last weekend to the New England Patriots spared us the sight of having to watch Brady Quinn play in his first real NFL game in over two years. Tim Tebow was likely to miss the conference championship battle due to the multiple chest injuries he sustained at the start of the third quarter. Brady Quinn, he who has not started played in a real NFL game in two years, was likely to start the AFC Championship game with just one week of practice as the starter. And he'd need to start on the road against the Baltimore Ravens, a team that has one of the top defenses in the league year in and year out.
Raise your hand if you think Quinn could pull that off. No one? Good; let's move along.
Related: 2012 NFL Playoff Schedule
But it's not time to blow off the 2012 NFL Playoffs. Who should we want to win this week's games? Let's take a look.
Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots: OK, let's start with the game that might be the simplest one to choose. The Broncos lost to the Patriots twice this season and that 45-10 loss in the divisional round of the playoffs would make it a simple choice for Broncos fans to go with the Ravens, but not so fast. Certainly the Patriots have dealt other blows to the Broncos outside of these two recent losses. The major one, of course, happened to be the bad goods the team received in Josh McDaniels (who is now back with the Patriots). But what have the Ravens done to the Broncos?
The Ravens were able to convince Shannon Sharpe to walk away from Broncos Country for a few seasons. And let's not forget about the playoff game in 2001 that the Broncos lost to the Ravens. OK, so that's not much, but let's throw in current Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco into this. He's completed 53.1 percent of his passes in the playoffs, including a 4-of-10 performance for 34 yards in Jan. 2010. That came against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Ooph. OK, the Ravens did win that game, 33-14, but Ray Rice carried that team with 159 yards and two touchdowns.
Look, Tom Brady is all kinds of things to all kinds of people and a lot of it is negative, but at least he is going to be an exciting player (and Broncos fans know that after seeing his six touchdown passes last week). Who wants to see Flacco quarterback in the Super Bowl? We don't need a Trent Dilfer-esque performance again. One was enough.
I think this all adds up to wanting the Patriots to win this game -- just so we can see Brady and Bill Belichick fall flat on their faces in the Super Bowl.
New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers: We do need to pick a team in this one, which means we can't disqualify both of them for winning Super Bowls against the Broncos. Let's see. The Giants won a Super Bowl during the 2007 season while the 49ers' last one came during the 1994 season. But the 49ers are 5-for-5 in Super Bowls and will tie the Broncos for six appearances in the big game with a win on Sunday. That's a wash.
All right. It comes down to the quarterback. Eli Manning versus Alex Smith. Manning is nails in the playoffs, it seems, but he's a Manning. We hear so much about that family that it's become tiresome (years and years ago, actually). But then there's Smith. He went from being the No. 1 pick to He was the No. 1 pick? to How's he still starting? to Dude, Alex Smith! The last came with his epic scoring drives in the final minutes of last week's game against the New Orleans Saints.
It's a story that many should take to heart when discussing quarterbacks who struggle early on before finding success in the league. TIM TEBOW TIM TEBOW TIM TEBOW TIM TEBOW TIM TEBOW. Or something.
Pull for the underdog, Alex Smith. Pull for the 49ers.
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