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New England Patriots vs Denver Broncos, AFC Championship Preview


Let’s be honest, The New England Patriots vs. The Denver Broncos is the AFC Championship we all wanted to see. You have two of the best quarterbacks of this generation in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and they will be playing for the right to play in this year’s Super Bowl.


Brady has won 10 of 14 matchups against Manning’s teams, which including a 2-1 record in postseason play. Manning did however win the last postseason game between the two quarterbacks as the Indianapolis Colts defeated the New England Patriots, 38-34. This isn’t the first meeting between the Patriots and Broncos this season.


In their first matchup earlier this season, the New England (13-4) recuperated from a 24-0 halftime deficit to win 34-31 in overtime on Nov. 24 in Foxborough. Manning was held to his worst numbers of the season as he passed for only 150 yards, had 52.8 completion percentage and a 70.4 passer rating.


The difference in the game may not be the arms of Brady and Manning, but the Patriots and Broncos rushing attacks.


Denver running back Knowshon Moreno rushed for 1,038 yards this season, which was a career high. The former Georgia Bulldog had a career-best 224 yards the last time the Patriots and Broncos played each other. Moreno’s also had 23 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos 24-17 win over the San Diego Chargers last Sunday.


The Patriots also have a running back that could equally be a factor in the AFC Championship.


Even though LeGarrette Blount had only two carries for 13 yards the last time these teams met, he has been a factor in the Patriots’ last two games.  He rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns in the Patriots’ 34-20 season finale win against the Buffalo Bills. Blount then followed that up last week with a 166 yard performance in a 43-22 win against the Indianapolis Colts.


Blount is making head coach Bill Belichick, look like a genius once again. Last April, Blount was traded to the New England Patriots for Jeff Demps and a seventh round selection (229th overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft. Even though Blount has had a troubled past, he has shown he was well worth the gamble.


If the Patriots are going to win this game, it is going to be by passing the football. The Broncos rank seventh in the NFL in rush defense, so Brady and wide receiver Julian Edelman, who had a team-high 1,056 yards receiving, will have to have big games.  Remember, one of Brady’s best games in 2013 came against the Broncos, as he completed 34 of 50 passes for 344 yards, for three touchdowns and zero interceptions.


For the Broncos, they need to take pressure off of Manning by running the football with Moreno. They also need to get pressure on Brady as the Patriots’ offensive line gave up 40 sacks on the season, which is the team’s highest total since 2001.


If the Broncos cannot get pressure on Brady, it could be a long day for the Broncos. Their defense ranked 26th against the passed in 2013 and they will be without maybe its best cornerback in Chris Harris. He was put on injured reserve after tearing his ACL during the fourth quarter in last week’s divisional round against San Diego.


Even though Manning has had his struggles against Belichick and Brady in the past, it is hard for me to take the Patriots in this one. The Broncos have too many offensive weapons for the Patriots to stop. I also believe the Broncos will be able to generate pressure on Brady, much like the first half of their earlier meeting.


Prediction 38-34 Broncos 

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