On Sunday, the New England Patriots (#2 seed in the AFC) will take on the Denver Broncos (#1 seed in the AFC) at 3:05 pm. Once again, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will do battle for a chance to go to the Super bowl. The stage is set for what is sure to be a historic afternoon this upcoming Sunday.
On one side, you have Tom Brady. After an offseason filled with controversy, Brady has once again set the NFL on fire, throwing for 4,770 yards, thirty-six touchdowns and seven interceptions. Much of Brady’s work has been done without several of his top weapons, including Julian Edelman (missed seven regular season games with a foot injury), Rob Gronkowski (missed two games with a knee injury), and others.
New England’s offensive line has also been battling through injuries this season. They struggled mightily in the Patriots 30-24 loss to Denver on Nov. 30, as Denver’s defense sacked Brady three times and hit him nine times. Last week in their divisional round matchup against the Chiefs, New England’s offensive line had a much better performance, allowing no sacks and only one quarterback hit. Having Julian Edelman back (Edelman missed the Nov. 30 game against Denver) will be huge for the Patriots, but the performance of this offensive line will be crucial to how much success Brady can have against the league’s top-ranked defense.
On the other side stands Peyton Manning. Many are saying that this is the last time we will see Brady and Manning square off, because many see this as Peyton Manning’s last season before he retires. Manning’s slow deterioration was seen in full force this season, as the 39-year-old legend only threw for 2,249 yards, nine touchdowns and seventeen interceptions. The four neck surgeries the quarterback underwent in 2011 are clearly showing, as Manning’s arm strength and “zip” on his passes have significantly declined.
Manning was benched during the Broncos 29-13 week 10 loss to the Chiefs, this happening right after Manning broke Brett Favre’s career passing yards record. At the time he was benched, Manning led the NFL in interceptions. He missed Denver’s week 11 matchup with New England, and was not active for another game until week seventeen. Manning was nursing a foot injury over the time that he missed. When Manning returned to the field after seven weeks, he led the Broncos to a victory over the Chargers, and the Broncos won the AFC West, clinching home-field advantage in the playoffs.
On Sunday against the Steelers, Manning played in his first full game in two months going 21/37 for 222 yards. He did not get much help from his receivers, as they dropped seven passes. Despite this, Manning was able to lead the Broncos down the field for a game-winning drive in the 4th quarter.
This is a matchup unlike any other in the NFL. It could be the very last time we see these two legends battle it out in the Gridiron. Before I give you my pick for Sunday’s game, here are some cold hard facts about what this game means.
- These two quarterbacks have faced each other sixteen times. Brady leads the series 11-5.
- When Manning was with the Colts, Brady and the Patriots won eight games, and the Colts won 4. In Manning’s time with Denver, the Patriots have played the Broncos five times, and Manning played in four of those games. The Patriots have won 3/4 of the games Manning played in. It should be noted that out of the four games Manning played in, only one was played in Denver, and the Broncos won that game.
- Brady and Manning have faced each other four times in the playoffs. That series is tied, 2-2. Three of those games have been AFC Championship games.
- The last AFC Championship game to not feature Brady or Manning was 2010. Brady has appeared in the last four.
- Dating back to 2002, Manning and Brady have appeared in 9/14 Super bowls. Brady has appeared in six and won four, and Manning has appeared in three and won one.
- This is the fifth straight AFC Championship game for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. In his time with the Patriots, Belichick has led them to twelve division titles and Six Super bowls. He is the winning-ist coach in Patriots history, and will stop at nothing to get a fifth ring.
- Gary Kubiak is in his first season as the Broncos head coach. Although he has dealt with a quarterback controversy this season, his Broncos won the AFC West and got the #1 seed. He will also be looking to get back at the Patriots for ending his season last year, when he was the offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots defeated the Ravens in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs last season.
My Pick: Tom Brady and the Patriots
If you want to see who I think will be facing the Patriots in the Super bowl, check out my NFC Championship Preview.
Thanks for reading,