AFC/NFC championship predictions: Which teams will advance to Super Bowl 50?

Here are our NFL Nation reporters' predictions for Sunday's conference championship games:


New England Patriots: The Patriots have the edge at the most important position, quarterback, where Tom Brady is still playing at a Pro Bowl level and Peyton Manning has morphed into a savvy game manager. No, Manning didn’t look great at times in the divisional round, and that seems to be why many in New England are especially confident. But Manning showed he can still make the clutch throw in the critical situation, and that’s why I think we’re headed toward another Brady-Manning classic. Of all the places the Patriots have struggled to win, Denver is near the top of the list. Buckle up and hang on for the ride; it could be a wild one, as it often is between these teams. Patriots 20, Broncos 17. -- Mike Reiss

Denver Broncos: The Patriots are in their 10th AFC Championship Game with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. The Patriots’ roster, as a whole, is “comfortable in these environments," as Broncos coach Gary Kubiak described. They have wide receiver Julian Edelman back in the lineup; Brady was at his postseason best in the victory over the Kansas City Chiefs; and Manning is still a bit of a question mark as he returns from the seven starts he missed with a foot injury. So it looks like a difficult matchup for the Broncos. But Denver has defied conventional wisdom for much of the season with its defense’s ability to pull the team through despite an inconsistent offense, a sometimes shaky offensive line and Manning’s physical issues. But here the Broncos are with a shot at the Super Bowl. They’re at home, the defense is more than good enough and it just might be Manning’s last ride. Broncos 27, Patriots 24. -- Jeff Legwold


Arizona Cardinals: Last weekend’s performances by the Cardinals and Panthers made predicting Sunday’s NFC Championship Game challenging. Arizona struggled offensively in the first half against the Packers, throwing just 14 times compared with 24 in the second half. But Arizona was conservative, throwing just three passes that traveled 15 yards or more in the air in the first two quarters. The Cards changed their philosophy in the second half, throwing eight of those passes, and beat Green Bay 26-20 in overtime. The Panthers, however, scored 31 points in the first half against Seattle but then were outscored 24-0 in the second half. The message all week for Arizona has been to not be tentative, especially early. If Carolina repeats its second-half performance from last week against the Cardinals, who scored an NFL-best 131 points on the road in the second half this year, Arizona will be making a trip to Super Bowl 50. Cardinals 31, Panthers 27. -- Josh Weinfuss

Carolina Panthers: No reason to pick against the Panthers. They’ve lost only once and have 12 consecutive wins at home, including a playoff game last year against Arizona. They just beat two-time defending NFC champion Seattle. They’re loose. But my deciding factor is how disruptive Green Bay was to the Arizona running game on Sunday. Carolina’s defensive front, led by Kawann Short, is far better. Carolina will make this game one-dimensional and put everything on Carson Palmer, who threw two picks and should have had more against the Packers. The NFL’s top defense in terms of forcing turnovers will decide this one. Panthers 24, Cardinals 17. -- David Newton