Bold predictions: Cam Newton will surpass 400 yards

It's time for another round of fearless prognostications involving this week's games. Warning: these predictions are not for the faint of heart.

Cardinals' receiving corps will expose Panthers defense

The Cardinals' wide receiver trio of Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd will amass more net yards than the entire Broncos offense on Sunday. With Peyton Manning under center, Denver's offense has been one of the NFL's least effective this season. Arizona's aerial attack, however, has an attractive matchup against a Carolina defense with a penchant for blowing big second-half leads. Minus two of their top three cornerbacks, the Panthers' secondary will be exploited by the most dynamic wide receiver corps remaining in the playoffs. -- Chris Wesseling

Dont'a Hightower will be the key in Patriots' win

This AFC Championship Game is going to be a lot closer and more defensive-minded than many have projected. The underrated Patriots defense will ultimately make the difference. This New England squad is quietly second in the NFL in sacks, and no one is playing better in their front seven than Hightower, who can blitz and track down opposing running backs with equal ease. Peyton Manning gets rid of the ball so quickly that coach Bill Belichick will eventually try to force the issue with pressure. Look for Hightower to force the key turnover in a tense 17-13 victory, sending Tom Brady to his seventh Super Bowl. --Gregg Rosenthal

The Broncos will not gain 100 rushing yards

The basic person's understanding of Sunday's Patriots-Broncos game is that Peyton Manning will likely not succeed without the help of a stellar rushing game. Bill Belichick is privy to this information too, and knows that in the absence of a truly throwback Manning performance, the game will be won at the line of scrimmage. With this information being common knowledge so far in advance, is there any doubt that a very good Patriots defense doesn't pour its heart into shutting down the Broncos' running game? Belichick said he would never underestimate Manning, but his game plan will tell the story -- and his game plan will involve a total shutdown of the Denver Broncos' backfield. -- Conor Orr

Carson Palmer will falter in Charlotte

I'm worried about Carson Palmer -- and Cardinals fans should be, too. The veteran quarterback has had a special season, but there is legitimate cause for concern after a sloppy performance against the Packers. Palmer threw two interceptions and fumbled once in the game, and was fortunate his day wasn't much worse. Playing in a tough environment in Charlotte, I predict Palmer will again be felled by some playoff-related anxiety, laying an egg that ultimately dooms the Cardinals. -- Dan Hanzus

Cam Newton piles up 400-plus total yards

It's not easy picking against the Cardinals, but the Panthers get my vote in what should serve as a fascinating showdown between the two finest teams in the NFL. Cam Newton has crossed the 100-yard barrier on the ground just once this season, but his feet will be the difference in a frantic NFC title tilt, with plenty of yards through the air too, I expect Cam to amass 400-plus total yards against an otherwise stingy Cardinals defense. That should be just enough to overcome Arizona's high-octane attack for the right to play in Super Bowl 50. -- Marc Sessler

Tom Brady has a monster game vs. Denver's vaunted defense

The Denver Broncos were the only defense in the NFL to hold opponents below 200 pass yards per game, and allowed just one quarterback to throw for 300-plus yards (Ben Roethlisberger). In their Week 12 matchup versus the Patriots, Denver held Tom Brady to 280 yards passing. In the AFC Championship, the quarterback will blow that figure out of the water, tossing for 467 yards and three touchdowns. Brady has excelled on the road this season with 16 TDs to just 3 INTs. With a full arsenal of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski, the Pats are primed to pick apart a Broncos defense with a banged-up Chris Harris. The Broncos defense hasn't been as dominant in recent weeks as it was to start the season, and Brady will display that fact for the entire world to see Sunday. - Kevin Patra

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