Patriots vs. Broncos: Complete Guide and Prediction for AFC Championship

R. Cory SmithSenior Writer IJanuary 18, 2014

Nov 24, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts after a completed pass against the Denver Broncos during overtime at Gillette Stadium Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

After an entire season of unpredictability, the AFC Championship Game pits two of the most predictably great teams against each other for a chance to make the Super Bowl.

When the New England Patriots travel to take on the Denver Broncos, two of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL will face off in the playoffs for what could be the final time on this stage. Both quarterbacks are still playing at a high level, but they are reaching the twilight of their careers.

While teams like the Houston Texans and even the Pittsburgh Steelers fell by the wayside, two of the best AFC teams at the beginning of the season were able to trudge through adversity to play in the last game between conference opponents in the postseason.

Before Manning and Brady do battle yet again on the biggest stage possible for the two rivals, here is a complete breakdown of the AFC Championship Game and a prediction for the final outcome.

AFC Championship Game
Date (Time)VisitorHomeBroadcast/Stream Info
Jan. 19 (3:00 p.m. ET)New England PatriotsDenver BroncosCBS


AFC Championship Breakdown

Before looking at the two quarterbacks in this game, let's take a step back and look at one of the most crucial matchups between these two teams: the running games versus running defenses.

The Patriots have utilized Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden at different points this season, but with LeGarrette Blount being the hot hand coming in, he has become the featured back.

Gregg Rosenthal of put it simply when he spoke about the stable of backs that the Patriots have in their arsenal heading into the AFC Championship Game:

LeGarrette BlountStevan RidleyShane Vereen and Brandon Bolden represent the deepest and most versatile backfield in Belichick's tenure. This is still a top offense, just different. They have few options on the outside in the pass game, so they are playing to their strengths.

With Blount and Ridley combining for six total touchdowns in the divisional round—Brady didn't have a single touchdown—the Patriots running backs look like an unstoppable force.

But on the other side stands a duo with Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball that are also playing well—maybe not six touchdowns in one game kind of well—and looking to exact some revenge against the Patriots.

With Moreno rushing for 224 yards and a touchdown in the Week 12 matchup, the Georgia Bulldogs product should be able to find more holes in the 30th-ranked rushing defense. Considering Moreno had the best game of his career and the Patriots still found a way to pull out the win, maybe a great performance from the fifth-year back isn't that important.

But with both teams' running games playing at a high level, the game might once again come back to the two superstar quarterbacks, as it should. When looking at the two quarterbacks, one has to look at the overall record between the two, as ESPN Stats and Info did on Twitter:

Along with that stat, NFL's official Twitter account notes that fans can expect another close game between the two signal-callers:

Despite their record against each other, Manning has put together one of the best seasons ever for an NFL quarterback. With 55 touchdowns and over 5,477 passing yards on the season, Manning broke both single-season records and hasn't slowed down in the playoffs.

After throwing for two touchdowns and one interception against the San Diego Chargers, the 16th-year signal-caller is yet again on the verge of making the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the man standing in his way is a familiar foe who's used to playing the underdog role and coming out on top.

Brady is far from the playoff quarterback that he was at the beginning of his career after starting off at 9-0 through his first three postseason ventures. But in the past three games in which his team has been the underdog, ESPN Stats and Info points out it hasn't gone well for the favorite:

In a battle between two of the best teams in the AFC, the game will once again come down to Manning versus Brady for a berth to the Super Bowl. The running game will be crucial, but even 244 yards by Moreno in the last matchup wasn't enough to pull out a victory for the Broncos.

Though Manning won't exactly throw three interceptions like he did to Ty Law in the 2004 AFC Championship Game, his performance will not be enough as the Patriots will once again make a trip to the Super Bowl.

Prediction: Patriots 31, Broncos 24


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