Joe Santoro: Will Peyton Manning end career on winning note?
There would be nothing more heartwarming and inspiring than to see Peyton Manning walk off the field at the Super Bowl next month a winner. But there will be offensive linemen on the field and probably a couple dozen fans in the stands this Sunday who could likely throw the ball with more zip than Manning. It’s not all about firing fastballs but Manning doesn’t even have his changeup anymore. Unless Tom Brady turns the ball over three times and the Denver Broncos defense pitches a shutout, Manning’s career could come to an ugly end on Sunday. For those of you over the age of 60, think Y.A. Tittle pictured kneeling down on the field late in his career with brood trickling down his bald head. New England 28, Denver 13.
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Most of the hype around this year’s Super Bowl will surround either Manning or Brady. Brady, who has already started a record six Super Bowls, will be after his record fifth Super Bowl victory. He is now tied with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw with four. It will be tough for 49ers fans to witness, but it would be fitting if Brady, a Bay area native, separates himself from former 49er Montana and Bradshaw by winning No. 5 in the Bay area. If Manning wins the Super Bowl this year without an arm, well, there will be those who call him the best quarterback in history and they might be right. Nobody, after all, has won a Super Bowl without an arm since Trent Dilfer.
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There is nothing about the Carolina Panthers that scares you except, maybe, having to endure two weeks of hype about them leading up to the Super Bowl. The Arizona Cardinals, who beat Green Bay in one of the best NFL playoff games in history last week, have more weapons. The Cardinals are more fun to watch. There’s nothing fun about the Panthers. But all they do is win. And they’ll be home on Sunday. Panthers 27, Cardinals 24.
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Chip Kelly didn’t exactly appear at his first San Francisco 49ers press conference as head coach wearing a Colin Kaepernick No. 7 jersey. Kelly was very careful not to show any favoritism between Blaine Gabbert and Kaepernick. Don’t read anything into all that. Kelly isn’t going to commit to his 2016 starting quarterback in late January. Nobody is sacred on a Chip Kelly roster. But we’d be stunned if Kaepernick isn’t the 49ers starter in Week 1. Kaepernick is motivated. Kelly is motivated. Both, basically, got fired this past season and they both have a lot to prove in 2016. Some other team is going to win the Super Bowl on their home field and celebrate in their locker room next month. The most motivated team in the NFL next year will be the 49ers.
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The Golden State Warriors are now 39-4 and still haven’t lost a game at home. The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, whose record of 72 victories is being challenged by the Warriors this year, were 40-3 after 43 games. Can the Warriors lose seven more games this regular season? Doubtful. First of all, they still have 22 homes games. Who is going to beat them at home? It shouldn’t shock anyone if the Warriors go 41-0 at home this year. That means they only have to win 12 of their remaining 17 road games to get to a record 73 victories. The Warriors still have to play two games at San Antonio and one each at the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City. Even if they lose all four (very unlikely), that still leaves them at 74 wins. Don’t be against it.
— Joe Santoro writes a weekly sports column for the Sierra Nevada Media Group.