New England Patriots (13-4) vs. Denver Broncos (14-3)
Sunday, January 19, 3 p.m. ET, CBS
For more than a decade, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have been dueling it out in some epic games. The two quarterbacks get a chance to add to their impressive legacies on Sunday when the New England Patriots play the Denver Broncos with a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII on the line. It will be the third time Manning and Brady meet in an AFC Championship Game.
The Broncos are the more impressive team when it comes to stats, but both squads have had terrific seasons. Manning got the 13-3 Broncos to the AFC’s top spot by throwing for the most yards and touchdowns in a single season in NFL history. Now, he’s trying to win his second world championship.
The Patriots haven’t been as fun to watch, but they’re back in the playoffs. Despite injuries to key players like tight end Rob Gronkowski and defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, Brady led New England to a 12-4 regular season record and a division title. He’s made average players look great, and if he can do that for two more games, he’ll have a chance to win a fourth Super Bowl.
Defense will be the issue for both teams. Denver gave up almost 25 points and more than 250 pass yards per game in the regular season. The Broncos will also be missing cornerback Chris Harris, who tore an ACL in Denver’s win against San Diego last weekend. The Pats, whose defense was in the bottom of the league in yards allowed this year, will have to stop the highest-scoring offense in NFL history.
The running game could also be a factor. The Pats allowed 134.1 rush yards per game in the regular season, so you might see Denver running backs Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball get a lot of carries on Sunday. New England running backs LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley scored six combined rushing touchdowns in the Patriots’ 43-22 win over Indianapolis last weekend, so they could play a large role in Sunday’s game, too.
Denver will have extra motivation to win, as it suffered a 34-31 loss to New England on November 24. Getting to the Super Bowl by beating the Pats would be the ultimate revenge. But no matter who wins, it will be fun to sit back and enjoy another game between two of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
Manning and the Broncos have all the numbers, but New England coach Bill Belichick is the best game-planner in the league. He and Brady will figure out how to defeat the Denver defense, and the Patriots will advance to the Super Bowl.
Pick: New England Patriots
Tell us in the comments who you think will win the Brady-Manning matchup!
Photos: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images (Peyton Manning), Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports (Tom Brady)