AFC Championship preview: Patriots vs Broncos

1/18/14 in NFL   |   jakeryanbrown   |   28 respect

AFC Championship preview: New England Patriots (13-4) vs Denver Broncos (14-3) – Sunday, 3:00PM in Denver, CO (48 degrees, no precipitation)
 
Oct 7, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) shakes hands with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) following the game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY SportsFor the third time in the AFC Championship, and the 15th time overall, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will face off.  That shouldn’t be the only headline though between these two elite teams.  Manning and the Broncos offense set records this season, but the future Hall of Fame quarterback still has his doubters in meaningful playoff games.  The pressure is all on Manning in this matchup and the quest to a second Super Bowl title will take a win over Brady in Denver.  Another title could make Manning the greatest quarterback of all time. 
 
On the other side, the Patriots have shocked the world with how good they played.  The injuries and the adversity they have battled all season have been remarkable.  This season is truly a testament to how amazing a coach Bill Belichick is and how great a QB that Brady is.  Their defense has missed the likes of Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, and Brandon Spikes, just to name a few.  Not to mention, their offense has been without their star tight end Rob Gronkowski all season. 
 
Manning passed Brady this season for the single-season touchdown record, but that means nothing Jan 12, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) throws a pass against the San Diego Chargers during the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Denver defeated San Diego 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sportscompared to the result of this game.  This is the rubber match.  Manning topped Brady once, and Brady topped Manning once in the AFC Championship.  Overall, Brady has dominated, going 10-4 against Manning.  Sunday at Mile High, a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey is on the line.  This could be the final time we see these two legendary quarterbacks meet in the playoffs.  Does it get any better than this? 
 
These are two entirely different teams from their November 24th matchup in Foxborough, when the Patriots rallied from a 24-0 deficit to win in overtime, 34-31.  While Manning and Brady will have pivotal roles of course, it may come down to the better running game.  The Patriots have adjusted their game plan, running the ball with a ton of success.  LeGarrette Blount has come out of nowhere, emerging as the Pats number one running back and running like a man possessed.  Blount, Shane Vereen, and Stevan Ridley have given the Patriots offense a huge boost, while Brady has made Julian Edelman his favorite target. 
 
In the end, this game comes down to one thing for me.  It’s Mother Nature.  The weather is not going to be an issue.  Temperatures will reach 50 degrees in Denver Sunday afternoon and it will be sunny.  Home field and no cold will favor Manning and the Broncos high-octane offense.  This game will turn out to one of the all-time classics, but in the end Manning will get to the Super Bowl at his brother’s stadium.
 
PREDICTION:
BRONCOS-34 PATRIOTS-31 
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