If the Patriots trip to Denver on Sunday turns out to be the final AFC Championship appearance of Peyton Manning’s Hall of Fame career, then no other match-up could be more fitting with history on the line. Brady versus Manning; one more time, likely for the last time.
Tom Brady leads the all-time series of Manning versus Brady 11-5, but the series is tied at five wins a piece since the 2005 regular season.
Tom Brady, who already ranks number one all-time for Super Bowl starts as a quarterback, will be looking to win his seventh AFC Championship. A victory over the Broncos, would also move the Patriots franchise ahead of the Cowboys and Steelers for first place all-time with nine Super Bowl appearances.
The Denver Broncos, who have made seven Super Bowl appearances in franchise history, can force four way tie for the top spot with a win over New England.
The Broncos defeated the Patriots in Denver 30-24 in overtime during week 12. In that match-up the Broncos rushed for 179 yards on 5.6 yard per carry, while holding the Patriots to only 39 yards on the ground.
The Broncos defense ranked number one in the NFL for yards allowed per game, the Patriots come in with the 3rd ranked scoring offense in the NFL.
For the Patriots to win, Tom Brady will have to come up big for the Patriots offense, just as he has done so many times in his career. The Patriots running game has struggled since losing LeGarrette Blount in a Dec. 13 win at Houston, and New England only managed to rush for 38 yards against Kansas City in the divisional round.
The Broncos will rely heavy on their running game and try to allow Manning to manage the game. Defensively, the Broncos must be able to put pressure and some good clean hits on Tom Brady. The Broncos also must finish drives with touchdowns instead of field goals; kicker Brandon McManus made five field goals last week against Pittsburgh.
While I think the Broncos will be able to run the ball against the Patriots, I expect the Patriots defense to hold up against the Broncos passing attack, and force at least one turnover. Statistically Peyton Manning has been one of the NFL’s worst quarterbacks this season with a 9:17 touchdown to interception ratio.
Despite the Broncos strong defense and Patriots lack of a running game, with a healthy Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, I see Tom Brady and the Patriots generating more offense than the Broncos will be able to match.
Tom Brady is only 2-6 in his career at Mile High Stadium, but he is also 3-0 in his career when facing the NFL’s number one defense in the playoffs.
I believe Peyton Manning’s hall of fame career as a player will end Sunday in Denver.
New England 27 Denver 20
***Bet Sports Strong Rating B****
A-Bet with confidence
B-Strong lean, but bet with caution
C-Slight lean, enjoy the game but be careful with your money
D-Prediction but not a good feel either way