PHOENIX, AZ - New England Patriots (13-4) vs. Denver Broncos (14-3)
Sunday, January 19, 1 p.m.
While this game is much bigger than the two quarterbacks taking snaps under center, there's been a lot of emphasis on the fact that this is fifteenth meeting between Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Broncos QB Peyton Manning.
On Sunday, the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks will get a chance to add to their resumes' when the New England Patriots take on the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium with a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII on the line.
Sunday's game marks the third time Manning and Brady have met in an AFC Championship title game.
When it comes to something other than the two quarterbacks, (which everyone knows is a matter of personal preference) this game comes down to the two "teams" going at it on the field, and in that respect, the Broncos have better stats. Denver is 13-3 with Peyton throwing for the most yards and touchdowns in a single season in NFL history.
But the Patriots have managed to get this far on coaching and gritty play. After losing a couple of starters earlier this season, the Patriots ground out a 12-4 regular season record and won yet another division title.
The problem for both teams won't be on offense where both quarterbacks are capable of putting up big points and yards; the issue for will be which team's defense shows up to play. The Patriots have one of the worst defenses in the league in regard to yards allowed this year. They will struggle against Manning in Denver. But the Broncos gave up close to 25 points and 250 passing yards per game this season. Add in the fact that Denver will be playing without cornerback Chris Harris (who tore his ACL against San Diego) and this could be a tough afternoon for those fans wearing orange.
With the two outstanding quarterbacks you'd expect this to be a pass happy afternoon, but both teams know who to run the ball to as well: Denver has Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball while New England has LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley. Blount and Ridley combined to score six rushing touchdowns last week against Indy and the Patriots proved they could rely as much on their running game as they do on Brady's arm.
Coming off a November loss to the Patriots, (34-31) the Broncos may have a little more motivation to beat the Pats, but just getting to the Super Bowl should be enough motivation for both teams.
When it comes to the coaching staff, New England's Bill Belichick is known throughout the league as a master, so you definitely have to figure his ability to scheme into the equation.
So when all is said and done, it's still Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning with the winner headed to the Super Bowl and the loser going home. Expect the unexpected this weekend in Denver because both teams are willing to do whatever it takes to get to the next game. Oh yes, and you can also expect plenty more "Omaha's" from Manning. He seems to have really enjoyed the fallout from this past week and all the attention that his line of scrimmage signals have brought his way.
My prediction: Broncos by 4.