One of the best rivalries in the history of the NFL will be renewed next week, as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will go at it one more time, with a berth in the Super Bowl on the line. The Broncos held off a late San Diego comeback to get to this spot, while the Patriots rolled over the Colts, winning by a score of 43-22. The AFC Championship will kickoff at 3 ET next week, and it will be televised on CBS.
Here are a few initial thoughts on this contest, one that is a rematch from an overtime thriller that took place back in week 12.
- This isn’t the first time that Brady and Manning have tangled in the postseason, as they have met three times in the past. Brady took the first two, but Manning got his revenge, winning the 2006 AFC Championship in Indianapolis.
- The Broncos didn’t have too much trouble early on with the Chargers, but late in the game, San Diego began to expose some known weaknesses on this Denver team. Their secondary is not that great, as they ranked 27th in pass defense during the regular season, and unlike the Pats, they rely far too much on their quarterback. Look for the Pats to exploit these things next weekend.
- Running the football is now a big threat that New England brings to the table, and the Broncos front seven has to be ready to stop LeGarrette Blount, and Stevan Ridley. The two combined for 218 yards and six touchdowns on Saturday night, and if you want to beat the Patriots, containing those two powerful backs is a must.
- Back on November 24th, the Patriots came back from a 24 point halftime deficit, and beat the Broncos. I don’t think that Tom Brady and company will fall behind by that much this Sunday, but they have proven throughout the year that they are capable of making a comeback of sizable proportions.
- New England’s cornerbacks seem to be peaking at the right time, as the combination of Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, and Logan Ryan put on a masterful performance on Saturday in Foxboro. Like old times, expect them to be extremely physical with Manning’s receivers, in an effort to slow down his high flying attack.
- Turnovers are always a big story in the playoffs, and based on regular season statistics, the Pats have the edge in this department. New England finished the year ranked third in the AFC in turnover differential, while the Broncos checked in at sixth.