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NFL playoff picks and predictions 2016: Conference championship weekend is here!

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The 2016 NFL playoffs are back with the conference championship round. Here are NFC and AFC title game picks and predictions.

Welcome back for the third round of the 2016 NFL playoffs! Well, not for the 49ers, but you get the point. Conference championship weekend means we will soon know the Super Bowl 50 participants. The top two seeds on each side of the bracket advanced, marking the first time since 2004 we've had that.

I'll have picks against the spread Sunday morning, but in the meantime, I thought I'd take a look at picks and predictions for each of the games. I've included our prediction widgets for each game, which are a general one for all the non-playoff blogs. And of course, I've posted the conference championship round prediction contest thread.

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning square off for the 17th time in their career, so it's safe to say the pre-game show will be rather busy. Manning was replaced earlier this season by Brock Osweiler due to some combination of injury and ineffectiveness. He returned to the field in Week 17, and then returned to the starting lineup last week. It was not a pretty picture most of the day, but he and the offense did enough late to get the victory. I think the Patriots offense will be a tougher task with more healthy options than the Steelers. Pick: Patriots

SB Nation: 6 of 8 picked the Patriots
ESPN: 6 of 7 picked the Patriots
CBS Sports: 7 of 8 picked the Patriots
FOXSports.com: 5 of 8 picked the Patriots

Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers

This is a tough one to pick. The Cardinals looked awful at times against the Green Bay Packers, but escaped in overtime. The Panthers were up 31-0 at halftime against the Seattle Seathawks. Seattle fought back and made things interesting in the fourth quarter before Carolina made their own escape. I think Carolina wins by a touchdown or so, but I don't think any result would really surprise me.

SB Nation: 5 of 8 picked the Panthers
ESPN: 6 of 7 picked the Panthers
CBS Sports: 5 of 8 picked the Panthers
FOXSports.com: 5 of 8 picked the Panthers