AFC Championship Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots - 1/19/14
New England Patriots (12-4) at Denver Broncos (13-3)
NFL Football: Sunday, January 19, 2014 at 3:00 pm (Sports Authority Field at Mile High)
The Line: Denver Broncos -6.5 -- Over/Under: 54.5 See the Latest Odds
This weekends AFC Championship of the Denver Broncos vs. the New England Patriots is the monumental matchup that people have been wanting to see all year.
In the 15h meeting of Manning and Brady it will probably be the complimentary players and coaching that decide the final outcome. Over the past three games the Patriots have deferred from Tom Brady in favor of the running game, rushing for 200 yards a game on 5.8 yards per carry. Despite the Pats putting up 43 points, Tom Brady threw for less than 200 yards last week with 0 touchdowns. The Patriots running backs combined for 235 total rushing yards and 6 rushing touchdowns (L. Blount 166 yards 4 touchdowns, S. Ridley 52 yards 2 touchdowns, S. Vereen 17 rush yards, 16 receiving yards). The Patriots have lacked the traditional talent on the supporting cast that all other teams still in the playoffs have, but they have simply found ways to win given what they have to work with. The production last week from LeGarrette Blount shouldn’t have been that surprising since he would have been a first or second round draft pick if only he kept his hands to himself against Boise State. Steven Ridley is coming off of a solid rookie season, and Vereen has shown to be an extremely valuable asset in the passing/screen game. It seems unlikely that the Patriots would drastically alter their recent game plan, so Denver should expect a heavy rushing attack with intermittent Brady drop backs that will help the Patriots control the clock and keep the ball out of Peyton Manning’s hand (the only proven successful defense against Manning).
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The pressure to win in this game is not completely one sided, but if one team is feeling it over the other it is definitely the Broncos. Anything less than a Super Bowl win for Denver will be considered a disappointment and will amplify the “Peyton chokes in the playoffs” argument (Peyton Manning Playoff Career: 10-11 overall, 7-5 at home, two Super Bowl appearances, one Super Bowl ring). Few Super Bowl winning quarterbacks are criticized for their ability not to repeat, but this is a product of Peyton Manning’s overall greatness. We expect him to be great and anything short of that is a failure. The winning touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones from Joe Flacco last season was not as much of a knock against the defense as it was against Manning. Since Manning has only made two Super Bowls at this point in his career with the amount of talent that has surrounded him on various playoff teams, it must be taken into account that regardless of statistics or season performance, Tom Brady and the Patriots know how win games in the playoffs (Tom Brady Playoff Career: 18-7 overall record, 3-2 on the road, five Super Bowl appearances, three Super Bowl rings).
It is hard to imagine that the Patriots would be underdogs against any team left in the playoffs, but given a career of greatness it is hard to go against the Pats getting nearly a touchdown on the road. I like Bill Belichick and the Golden Boy to find a way to cover the spread.