Maybe Sports Illustrated and I jinxed it when we both wrote that the top teams in the NFL would not be in the Super Bowl race but rather the mediocre underdogs. Here we are at the Conference Championship with the four best teams in the league. I have never been so happy to be proven wrong.
In case you live under a rock or you are avoiding the playoff action because you’re heartbroken by your own team’s loss, the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning will host the New England Patriots and Tom Brady at 1pm (mtn) at Sports Authority field at Mile High.
First, a few facts that need no elaboration:
- Manning has not lost to a team twice in the same season since 2007
- 6 out of 7 Brady-Manning matchups have been decided by 7 points or less
- In playoff matchups between both Manning and the Broncos against New England, whoever has had home field advantage has won the game.
- The Patriots are the underdogs in the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 AFC Championship game where Peyton Manning and the Colts came from behind to win 38-34.
- Peyton Manning and the Colts went on to win Super Bowl XLI.
Manning’s success in play calling abilities have never been so transparent as they were this past weekend. He caused five neutral zone infractions by the Chargers which is the most called since 2001 (the beginning of this statistic). Hopefully he can do the same against the Patriots defense, although I’m sure ‘Omaha’ won’t be the key word this weekend.
The Pats have lost their three best interior defenders. Brandon Spikes, Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo are all on injured reserve which means theoretically, Ball and Moreno should be able to bob and weave through defenders much like they did last week.
In the playoff race Denver is the top defense, limiting the Chargers to 259 yards. In the regular season the Broncos have limited their opponents to an average of 3.9 rushing yards. Stopping LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley is key. Against the Colts, Blount had 166 yards and four touchdowns and Ridley had 52 and two touchdowns. They have incredible abilities to make quick decisions if a break in the defense is shown.
What the Broncos have struggled with all season is their passing defense. The Patriots took advantage of it in the last meeting as Brady threw three touchdowns and had 344 yards even in the windy, rainy New England weather.
However note that Denver’s corners led the team in tackles against the Chargers. What may be better than that is that Champ Bailey is at the top of that list. Having him back in full strength against the Patriots will be vital considering the backfield lost an asset in Chris Harris Jr. with a torn ACL.
After Harris left the game against the Chargers Quentin Jammer was not able to keep up with receiver Keenan Allen who scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The signing of former Patriot cornerback Marquice Cole should add some comfort in the secondary or special teams.
Oh and I almost forgot, there’s this matchup between Manning and Brady that could make a slight difference in this game. Nobody is really talking about them though, two quarterbacks that will define this era in football don’t get much hype.
Those two defining quarterbacks and their companies will face off on a sunny, warm Sunday in the Mile High City, let the best team win and have a trip to New York on February 2nd.
Denver Broncos 27 vs New England Patriots 24