Friday, January 17, 2014

AFC Championship Preview: Patriots at Broncos

     Nearly two months ago, we wrote about the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry in preparation for November's matchup between the Broncos and the Patriots. The Patriots went on to overcome a 24 point deficit and beat the Broncos in overtime. Now, Brady and the Patriots will try their luck a second time in order to beat Denver on the road in the AFC Championship Game. If Tom Brady is able to win this game, there will be no disputing his legacy, where a victory over Peyton will put the nail in the coffin regarding the Brady-Manning debate; however, a victory by Peyton will continue the argument, especially if he goes on to win the Super Bowl. The Broncos are the 5-point favorites entering Sunday's game, but it is always dangerous to go against Tom Brady in the playoffs, especially when his Patriots are the underdog.

New England Patriots: Last weekend, the Patriots played the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round, a team that had beaten the 49ers, Broncos, and Seahawks in 2013 (all three of those teams are still in contention). The Patriots led the entire game, and won by a final score of 43-22; however, New England's running game carried the Patriots offense, where all five of New England's touchdowns came from running the ball. New England's running back LeGarrette Blount rushed for 166 yards and four touchdowns in Sunday's win, but don't be surprised if New England does not give Blount as many attempts against Denver. The running game will still be important for the Patriots so that they can keep Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos' offense off the field. Historically, Tom Brady has done well statistically when facing a team led by Peyton Manning, but Brady will no longer be the most important factor in order for New England to win on Sunday. Defensively, the Patriots picked off Andrew Luck four times on Sunday, but because of Indy's weak running game, a large amount of pressure was put on Luck to have a great game. Now, the Patriots will face a more well-rounded offense in the Denver Broncos, so it is reasonable to believe that Manning will not throw more than two interceptions. The Pats defense have lost star defenders like Vince Wilfork and Jerard Mayo, yet they have managed to apply reasonable pressure on the quarterback, as well as smother even the best wide receivers in the league thanks to cornerback Aqib Talib.

Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning has posted great numbers in the regular season throughout his entire career, but his legacy as a quarterback will be questioned if he finishes his career with just one Super Bowl ring. Manning's career passer rating of 76.7 in the Championship Round is his worst rating of any playoff round, where his completion percentage in the Championship Round falls to just 57.1%, as well as a TD/INT ratio of 1:1 (contrary to his rating of 5.5:1 during the 2013 regular season). There is also the belief that Peyton can not play in cold weather games, but if this myth is actually true, Peyton does not need to worry seeing that the temperature is expected to be 52 degrees at kickoff. With all the criticism against Peyton, as well as the immense pressure to beat Tom Brady in the playoffs, we expect Manning to have a reasonable game by his standards against the Patriots defense. Manning's ability to read defenses quickly, as well as his talented offensive line, helped Denver rank first in the league in sacks allowed during the regular season with 20. The Patriots defense is mediocre when it comes to applying pressure on the quarterback, but they certainly deserve credit after losing Wilfork and Mayo for the entire season. With Manning surrounded by extraordinary talent at the wide receiver position, including guys like Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Eric Decker, the Patriots will just have to pick their poison regarding who to focus on shutting down. Pats corner Aqib Talib has a reputation of smothering the best wide receivers in the league, but then again, he can only be in one place on the field at a time.

Prediction: With the temperature exceeding 50 degrees on Sunday, the great conditions will allow both quarterbacks to successfully throw the ball, which clearly gives the advantage to Peyton Manning. The Patriots will try and keep Manning off of the field for as long as possible, but in the end, we predict Matt Prater to kick the gaming winning field goal, sending Peyton Manning to his third career Super Bowl.
Broncos over Patriots 23-20

No comments:

Post a Comment