Last January, the Ravens went to Foxborough and beat the Patriots 28-13 for the AFC title on the same day that the 49ers went into the Georgia Dome and beat the Falcons 28-24. It was the first time since 1997 that both road teams won the NFL’s conference championship games. And only the third time since the NFL/AFL merger:
1997: Green Bay won at San Francisco, and Denver won in Pittsburgh.
1992: Dallas won won at San Francisco, and Buffalo won in Miami.
It seems unlikely that we’d have two straight seasons of both conference title games won by the road squads. But winning on the road isn’t all that uncommon in the NFL playoffs anymore.
So far in 2013, road teams are 4-4 in the playoffs. Last season, road teams were 4-6. In 2010, 6-4. In 2008, 2007 and 2005, 5-5.
Another sweep clearly can be done. Will it? I say yes.
Patriots at Broncos: New England 33-27. Both these teams have been decimated by defensive injuries. But there’s a difference. New England was crippled in the autumn, giving Bill Belichick time to retool. Denver is getting crippled in the playoffs.
49ers at Seahawks: San Francisco 17-16. This is old-fashioned football — think Black and Blue Division, the old NFC Central — and will be won by an old-fashioned position. The 49er linebackers. Ahmad Brooks, Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman could dominate the game.
Last week: 4-0. Playoff record: 5-3. Season record: 157-92-1.