Who: Denver Broncos (13-3) vs. New England Patriots (12-4)
What: AFC Championship Game
When: Sunday, January 19th at 3:00 PM ET
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
TV Channel: CBS
In their third consecutive AFC Championship game, the New England Patriots will travel to Sports Authority Field at Mile High to face the Denver Broncos. In the first matchup between these two teams on November 24, the Broncos held a 24-0 lead at halftime in Foxboro, MA, but the Patriots came back and won in OT, 34-31. Certainly, enough time has passed since then for both teams to improve and heal injured players affected in the first meeting. Quarterback Peyton Manning hopes to lead Denver to its first Super Bowl since 1998. Will the Broncos exact revenge on the Pats and get back to the promised land? Or will New England continue its postseason success with another Super Bowl appearance?
This year, Manning and the Broncos have utilized their passing offense to exploit opponents’ defenses and earn victories. Denver ranks first in the NFL with 340.3 passing yards per game. At the age of 37, Manning was able to break the single-season passing yards and touchdown record this season. The success of the offense has been due to the variety of receivers that Manning has in his arsenal. Three wide receivers and tight end Julius Thomas each have 10 or more touchdowns this season. Not to mention, wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker both have over 1,200 receiving yards on the season. Also, the Broncos scored 30 points or more in 13 out of 16 regular season games. Head Coach John Fox hopes his powerful offense can continue its success on Sunday and overpower the Patriots.
On the other side, New England comes into this game winning six of its last seven games, including last week’s divisional victory over the Indianapolis Colts, 43-22. Quarterback Tom Brady continues to execute the offense effectively week after week, passing for over 4,300 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. Even though the Patriots have gone to their passing offense for most of the season, their run game has been very effective in recent weeks. Last week against the Colts, New England rushed for 234 yards and six touchdowns. A majority of the rushing yards came from RB LeGarrette Blount, who ran for 166 yards and four TDs. The 27-year old has been a main component of the Pats’ ground-and-pound game these last few contests. People will expect the Patriots’ offense to come big in late-game situations, but the defense held the Broncos to only seven points in their first meeting in November.
The main matchup many people around the country will be watching out for is the battle between Manning and Brady. These rivaled quarterbacks have a ton of experience in postseason play that they bring to the table. Whichever QB can lead his offense to success in this game and come up with big plays in the late minutes of the fourth quarter will help take his team to a Super Bowl appearance.
Lets take a look at some blogger thoughts from around the country:
“The Broncos will move on to Super Bowl XLVIII thanks to a balanced attack against a Patriots defense that simply couldn’t make its typical game-changing play late.
Manning and Brady will both have fine games, but Denver will run it just as well as New England, and John Fox’s team has the much more dangerous and complementary receiving corps.
Though Collins may keep Julius Thomas from having a monstrous performance, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and even Jacob Tamme will just be too much in the second half.
The Patriots will connect on a few long passes with Harris out, but they won’t have enough firepower to score the five touchdowns needed on the road in Denver.”
“The Denver wide receivers are extremely talented and their unique skills complement the offense. Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are the dynamic duo that makes the offense so dangerous. Both have the size, speed, hands, and chemistry with their quarterback that make either capable of making big plays all over the field. While both are sometimes dismissed as simply ‘deep threats’ both receivers work outside the numbers and will go over the middle if necessary.
While the wind and Denver’s mind-set to take the run when presented with the two-deep shell in the earlier match-up the Patriots had the most to do with slowing Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, the Patriots’ banged-up secondary was able to contain the duo. Thanks to a big game by rookie Logan Ryan and having the obviously hobbled Aqib Talib not targeted down field by Manning, Decker and Thomas were not making big plays downfield. That will very likely not be the case on Sunday.”
“NE is one of the toughest secondaries the Broncos will have faced all season. Their outside corners, Ryan for that matter all can disrupt timing at the line of scrimmage making it difficult for Thomas, Decker, and Welker to get separation. Not only that, they scheme things well to limit the impact a play has on the defense. Here the TE was guarded at three levels as were the crossers coming over the middle.
I think you will see a very similar approach on Sunday. When they do choose to play Cover 1 or disguise it, you can guarantee they are comfortable with leaving Dennard on an island with Decker as they did here. When you have players on the outside that can press and guys underneath that play zone at a high level, it is going to take patience and some playmaking ability by the receivers to beat it.
Manning and Gase no doubt have a plan to deal with it. Some of the things they can do is stack one side of the LOS more than others. If you have a 1×3 or 3×1 (or even a 1×4 or 4×1) alignment, it changes how the safeties have to play and can create a favorable matchup for someone. They can also stack receivers and use pick plays. As disciplined as they are on the outside, it is going to take some persistence to score a big play over the top.
It will be interesting to see how the Broncos approach the rematch because New England’s defense had a lot of right answers the first time around.”
The Denver Broncos hope their home field crowd can make this a tough playoff environment for the Patriots. But, New England has a roster full of players with experience in postseason play. Quarterback Peyton Manning will need to break down the defense and make the necessary throws at the right times. Expect to see the Pats mix up their offense to get the Broncos off-balanced on defense. The Broncos only lost once this season at home and would not like to end their Super Bowl dreams in front of the Denver faithful. New England is just one win away from its sixth Super Bowl appearance in the last 14 years. Fans around the nation should watch out for a very competitive game between two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
Aaron Siegal-Eisman (@ASiegalEisman) is a regular contributor of NCAAM, NCAAF and NFL coverage to the movoli blog.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in movoli blogs are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of movoli.
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- History: Denver Broncos and the AFC Championship Game (predominantlyorange.com)
- Report: Tom Brady Will Start In AFC Championship Game, Could Be Sick (nesn.com)
- AFC Championship: Matchups to watch (espn.go.com)