The 2014 AFC Championship is already one of the most important games of the season, but with the New England Patriots slated to square off against the Denver Broncos, the battle for a Super Bowl berth just got more interesting.
With New England’s Tom Brady going head-to-head with Denver’s Peyton Manning for the 15th time in their careers, the biggest storyline coming into this matchup is the quarterback battle.
As NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano points out, the war between Brady and Manning in the postseason has brought out the best in both men:
Brady has faced Manning three times in the playoffs. Home team has won all 3 games and has gone on to win the Super Bowl each time.— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) January 13, 2014
Here is all the vital viewing information for the 2014 AFC Championship, a full preview and the predicted final score.
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
When: Sunday, Jan. 19, at 3 p.m. ET
Live Stream: CBS Sports Live
|Denver Broncos||-6 (-110)||+220||Over 56 (-110)|
|New England Patriots||+6 (-110)||-220||Under 56 (-110)|
New England Patriots (12-4) at Denver Broncos (13-3)
When New England played Denver in Week 12, the Patriots were able to sneak out a 34-31 victory in overtime. The Broncos will host the rematch, but there is no question that this matchup will be just as tightly contested.
New England won’t beat Denver this time, though.
The Patriots have changed the offensive game plan coming into the postseason as injuries and a lack of continuity forced the franchise to revert back to a run-heavy offense. Brady is still a threat to pick a defense apart, but the team leans more heavily on the ground game now.
As ESPN breaks down, the battle between these two legendary QBs favors Brady:
New England racked up an astounding 234 yards rushing against the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round, led by LeGarrette Blount and his 166 yards. As well as the Patriots have been running the ball, the Broncos are playing much better defensively after struggling throughout the regular season.
Denver’s front seven held San Diego to just 65 rushing yards in last week’s matchup. While the defensive unit has struggled to find consistency, the presence of veterans like Champ Bailey and Shaun Phillips have helped the defensive unit stiffen up in the biggest moments.
The biggest difference-maker on Sunday will be Manning’s many weapons.
While Brady has been forced to make due with a lackluster group of skill players around him, Manning and the Broncos have the talent and depth advantage all over the offensive unit.
Who ya got?
The familiarity between these two teams due to the regular-season matchup will result in a close game that comes down to the last moments, but it’s the Broncos' offensive advantage that will secure the win and help the team advance to the Super Bowl.
Predicted Final Score: Denver 28, New England 24
*All stats via NFL.com.