The 2014 AFC Championship will be fought between the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots this coming Sunday. It’s one of the most anticipated rematches of the season, as these two foes battled in an incredible overtime match back in Week 12 on Monday Night Football.
While New England mounted a franchise-record 24-point comeback in the second half to eventually win the game in overtime, things have changed for both sides in the months following that late-November tussle.
Bettors will want to have the most up-to-date information and utilize trends to make an informed decision before pulling the trigger on any championship game bets.
Keep reading for everything you need to know regarding the big game plus my projections on the outcome.
When: Sunday, Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
Weather: High of 59 degrees, low of 37 degrees. West/Southwest wind at 9 miles per hour. Zero chance of rain.
*Spread and total information via ScoresAndOdds.com
Betting Line: Broncos -6.5
This AFC Championship battle is going to be the 15th time that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady face off with one another. It will be the third time they meet in the postseason and the second time they match up with the Super Bowl on the line.
Brady has an advantage in most of these categories, having beaten Manning in 10 of the 14 prior contests and going 2-1 in postseason showdowns. However, the two are currently split, 1-1, in AFC Championship matches.
This rubber match may determine the ultimate winner of their rivalry and could be the last time these legends meet on the field in the playoffs, as their respective Hall of Fame careers are drawing closer to an end.
Despite the fact that the game will be in Denver and Manning finally pushed past the first round as a member of the Broncos, it’s still a safe bet to back Brady and New England.
The Pats are 5-1 straight up and against the spread in their last six games over this AFC West opponent, including a SU and ATS victory in the aforementioned Week 12 thriller.
Remember, New England’s running game is playing better than anyone else at this juncture and is going to be a burden for the Broncos to try and stop. LeGarrette Blount has emerged as a bona fide star, rushing for 355 yards and six scores in his last two games.
While Denver’s rushing defense only concedes an average of 101.6 yards per game on the ground, it will have to pick its poison. Brady carved up the secondary for 344 yards and three scores earlier this season and will undoubtedly make the Broncos pay if they choose to focus on stacking the line.
The Pats will be without superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski this round, who played every snap back in November, but they've been adapting to a slew of injuries and personnel turnover since the offseason.
Fullback James Develin summed it up best, telling Patriots.com:
We fought through a lot of adversity, through some tough games and a lot of injuries and stuff like that, but I mean we've showed a lot of mental toughness and it's been a blessing to be here along for the ride.
Take the points in this situation, as New England is built to win in the postseason and will not be fazed by a road trip to hostile territory. The Pats have proven it countless times and are well worth a bet on the money line as well as getting points.
This is a great line, but my inclination is to lean under.
The Pats are more than capable of putting up points—as evidenced by their 43-point explosion against the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round—and we all know that Manning’s record-setting offense (the 2013 Broncos were the first team to breach the 600-point barrier) is a threat to strike at a moment’s notice.
For that reason, the line here has been set quite high. Neither team is going to want the other to have its offense out on the field and will look to eat up as much clock time as possible.
How will this one shake out?
With the Pats having established their running game during the season finale and in their opening playoff contest, they are a sure bet to lean heavily on it once again on Sunday.
Knowshon Moreno should get a heavy workload as well, as the feature back was stellar against New England in their prior meeting. The former first-round draft pick went off for 224 yards and a score on 37 carries that evening, proving that pounding the rock is an effective strategy for Denver against this opponent.
With each participant’s respective running game chewing up the game clock, time of possession is going to end up being a key stat. However, that usually doesn’t make for high-scoring, fast-paced affairs, and it’s best to stay away from the tantalizing over here.
Prediction: New England 28 – Denver 24