Tom Brady and the New England Patriots hit the road to take on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.
While not the bloodbath the NFC Championship between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks will undoubtedly be, this duel between NFL legends may be the last time Brady and Manning meet in a matchup of such importance.
The two sides already met once this season back in Week 12, where Brady pulled off an epic comeback at home to score a 34-31 overtime victory.
This time at Denver, expect both quarterbacks to be at their absolute best.
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
When: Sunday, Jan. 19, at 3 p.m. ET
Live Stream: CBS Sports Live
|New England Patriots||+4 (+105)||+180||Over 57 (-110)|
|Denver Broncos||-4 (-125)||-220||Under Under 57 (-110)|
Tale of the Tape
Manning and Brady have met 14 times overall throughout their illustrious careers. Even more impressive, they have met three times in the playoffs, including twice in the AFC Championship Game, where the winner went on to win the Super Bowl, per SportsCenter:
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have met 3 times career in the postseason. Home team has won each time, AND won the Super Bowl.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 13, 2014
While the two have been relatively similar from a stats standpoint in their head-to-head meetings, Brady has a massive leg up in the win column, as ESPN visualizes:
This can be attributed to a wide range of factors, but Brady will not be able to bully his way through the air to a win this time around. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is out and two of his top receivers are rookies, which would explain why the Patriots have morphed into a rushing team as of late—to surprising success:
Running back LeGarrette Blount led the charge in those last two games with 355 rushing yards and six scores on just 48 carries. Half of those handoffs led to 166 yards and four scores in the Patriots' divisional-round win over the Indianapolis Colts. As ESPN's Adam Schefter points out, Blount's effort against Indy was a pretty big deal:
Sorry Walter, Barry, RBs: LeGarrette Blount became 1st player in NFL history to rush for at least 125 yds and four TDs in a postseason game.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 12, 2014
Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan understands what makes Blount so great this year, as reported by the Patriots' website:
That is a big, physical runner. He plays his game well. He knows his strengths and he knows his weaknesses, but he plays to his strengths a lot. We are going to try to keep him contained. They are going to come in here and try to run and do all that, but we are going to be prepared for whatever. It’s game time. Our defense knows what time it is and our offense knows what time it is. We just have to be prepared for that.
Denver can take solace in the fact it should be more than prepared for Blount after practicing all year against Knowshon Moreno, who ripped off 224 rushing yards and a touchdown the last time these teams met.
Not only that, the Broncos are one of the NFL's best against the rush this year. When the defense can get a stop, Manning may find it rather easy to put up points thanks to weapons such as Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas. The latter missed the Week 12 loss, which clearly had a major impact on the outcome:
Peyton Manning: 74.5 comp pct, 12 TD, 1 Int when targeting Julius Thomas this season. Thomas missed Denver's Week 12 loss to the Patriots.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 15, 2014
While the first matchup featured an epic comeback for the ages, this contest will likely be much closer throughout. Both teams are far and away the AFC's best thanks to their ability to adapt.
Expect a classic as two old foes rekindle a rivalry for possibly the final chapter.