The NFL Final Four take the field

FitzbeatsquareThe much anticipated countdown to Super Bowl 50 is just three weeks away now that the table has been set with the NFC and AFC Championship games. You might suspect that the NFL is kicking their heels over the conference championships.


For the first time since 2004, the top two conference seeds meet, with Super Bowl 50 the reward for the winners. NFL Super Bowl XLIX defending champion 13-4 New England Patriots and the 13-4 Denver Broncos meet in Denver for the AFC title.

NFL playoffsIn the NFC title game, the 16-1 Carolina Panthers meet the 14-3 Arizona Cardinals. Quarterbacks Cam Newton and Carson Palmer are both heavy MVP candidates in what should be a great marquee match-up.

Both Newton and Palmer are previous Heisman Trophy winners and both were selected No. 1 overall coming into the NFL. Newton was taken by Carolina and Palmer by Cincinnati. It will, however, be in the shadow of Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning in the 17th and potentially final meeting of two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

This season, the glowing reputations of both Brady and Manning for great achievement on the field and winning have been somewhat tainted by Deflate Gate in Brady’s case. He did win his appeal of a four-game suspension by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, which the league has appealed.

And Manning has been accused of taking HGH (Human Growth Hormone) that was delivered to his home. He has vehemently denied taking HGH, saying it was for his wife.

Manning missed six games this year because of injury and is 39; Brady is 38. This could likely be their final meeting.

Manning is 2-1 in conference championship games vs. Brady. In the previous 16 times they have matched up over their careers Brady is 11-5. This is the 10th Conference Championship for Brady; he’s 5-1 against all other quarterbacks.

Carolina and Arizona met last year in Carolina in the playoffs with the Panthers and Newton winning 27-16. Palmer did not play in that game as he was injured. So buckle your straps — this should be great theater with Super Bowl 50 the big prize.

The Cardinals beat the Packers 26-20 in overtime to advance to the title game. The Minnesota Vikings may have lost to Seattle 10-9 the week before, but two Minnesota-born athletes came up big for the Cardinals. Michael Floyd scored two touchdowns and Larry Fitzgerald Jr., with 176 yards on eight receptions and the game-winning touchdown in overtime, also came up big.

Carolina beat Seattle 31-24, Denver beat Pittsburgh 23-16, and New England beat Kansas City 27-20.


Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to, or visit