NFL Playoff Picks: Broncos and Patriots on Crash Course for AFC Title Showdown

Austin GreenCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 07:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots and Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos greet each other at midfield following the game on October 7, 2012 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Brace yourselves for a clash of the quarterback titans, as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are on pace to meet in yet another AFC championship showdown.

The two legendary QBs have met three times in the playoffs, twice with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. With both of their teams favored this weekend, a third battle for the AFC crown is on the horizon.

Manning and the Denver Broncos will be facing the Baltimore Ravens, who certainly present some challenges. Ray Rice is one of the best running backs in the league, Baltimore's defense dominated last week and the Ravens are riding on the emotional high of Ray Lewis' farewell tour.

Despite all of that, you can expect the Broncos to prevail on Saturday. Denver has won 11 consecutive games, including a 34-17 beatdown of Baltimore in Week 15. In that game, the Ravens converted just one of their 12 third-down opportunities, and they had possession for less than 22 minutes of the game.

Manning has also shredded Baltimore recently, winning nine straight games against the Ravens. Eight of those came when he was with the Colts, but with an army of quality wide receivers and a dangerous running game, I'm expecting him to lead his new team to similar success.

On the other side of the AFC bracket, Brady will lead the New England Patriots against the Houston Texans. The Texans lost three of their last four regular-season games, and they were unimpressive in a narrow win over Cincinnati last week.

Houston also got stomped by the Patriots in Week 14. New England jumped out to a 28-0 lead, before eventually prevailing 42-14. Brady threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns, while Houston didn't reach the end zone until late in the third quarter.

Given that the Patriots are 10-2 at home in the playoffs since Brady became the starter, I'm expecting another emphatic win for New England.

If that happens, the NFL's dream of another Manning vs. Brady duel would become a reality. Brady won the first two matchups, but Manning prevailed in the 2007 AFC Championship Game.

The stakes would be even higher this time around, as both players are in the twilight of their careers.

There's no point in making a prediction about a matchup that isn't even set, but I can guarantee one thing: If Manning and Brady square off next weekend, fans everywhere will be treated to one hell of a show.