It’s Conference Championship weekend in the NFL – one of the best sporting weekends of the year. And to kick things off on Sunday, we’ll be heading to the Mile High City for yet another installment of the classic quarterback rivalry – Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. Both of these play-callers are surely future Hall-of-Famers, but their current statuses entering their latest chapters couldn’t be more different. Brady remains at the top of his game. Maybe it’s the fact he never eats sugar, dairy, or anything slightly unhealthy – who knows. But Tom Brady has enjoyed an excellent season for the Patriots, and done so while many of his top targets were on the sidelines. Conversely, it has been a rocky season for Peyton Manning, and you really have to wonder if this is the last game Manning will ever play. He’s been banged-up and it’s apparent that even though the mind is still there, his ability has really fallen off over the past couple of years. His throws have lacked zip, and truthfully he has looked like a liability of late for an otherwise excellent Broncos squad. This match-up promises to take centre stage in the Mile High City come Sunday afternoon. Brady/Manning and the Patriots/Broncos, it doesn’t get any better than this! Read on below for a full game breakdown and an official betting selection for the AFC Championship game.
Patriots vs. Broncos Betting Odds:
New England Patriots -3 (-110)
@ Denver Broncos +3 (-110)
Over 44.5 (-110)
Under 44.5 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Patriots vs. Broncos Pick:
Folks, Peyton Manning is not ‘back.’ Yes, the Broncos did knock off an impressive Steelers squad last week, but Manning is not the reason his team advanced to the AFC Championship game. Manning struggled on deep passes that sailed out of bounds, and even on his shorter throws, he left that as wobblers – difficult to catch for his receivers. Truthfully, the only reason Denver is hosting this game is because of Fitzgerald Toussaint’s fumble in the latter stages of last week’s game. This week, Manning will take on an even tougher defense from New England. The Patriots boast a good secondary and should make things very difficult on Manning.
Expect Belechick to once again implement an excellent game plan that results in his team leaving the Mile High City victorious. Manning will be shown no respect as New England will be expected to load the box, and force the aging quarterback to beat the Pats’ defense downfield. One area that has to have the Broncos concerned, is their porous O-Line taking on the pressure of New England’s defensive line. The Pats are actually 2nd in the NFL to Denver in overall sacks, and should be able to apply pressure from the outset on the immobile Manning. Denver can turn to the run game all they want, but it’s likely not going to bring them much success. New England’s linebackers are much healthier than when these teams first met on Thanksgiving weekend, and with the emphasis on the Pats stacking the box, space will be limited for C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman. Moving the chains is going to prove very difficult for Peyton in this one. The Pats do many things well on the defensive side that should give Denver all kinds of fits. Expect a ton of pressure and press coverage, and ultimately some costly errors and turnovers in what could be Manning’s final game.
On the other side of the ball, this game all comes down to whether the Broncos’ defense can keep their offense in the game. Expect a lot of 3-and-outs for Manning, and the pressure will be squarely placed on the Broncos’ stop unit from the outset.
New England on offense is back to its pass-happy approach – which is a good thing considering their lead running back is Steven Jackson. Denver is also tops in the NFL defending the ground attack, so moving the ball through the air is likely going to be the Patriots’ best bet on Sunday. Look for the Broncos to do a formidable job of turning the Pats into a one-dimensional offense, but with the array of weapons at Brady’s disposal, it’s going to be tough to truly limit New England. With Gronkowski, Edelman, and Amendola, New England just has too much explosiveness in their passing game. One huge area of concern for Denver is the status of key cornerback Chris Harris. Harris typically covers the slot for the Broncos, and is going to have his hands full with the supremely talented Julian Edelman. The Pats are 22-1 in their last 23 contests with Edelman, and back in 2014, a healthy Chris Harris had no answers for covering the elusive Edelman. Expect New England to spread the ball around effectively, continuously hitting on short throws to all areas of the field and keeping the chains moving. That’s how you can beat this Broncos defense and Belechick has prepared to do so.
As good as Denver’s defense is, there is going to be a ton of pressure placed on them Sunday. You just cannot restrict New England’s potent attack for 60 minutes. The Broncos will really need Manning to produce offense for them, but it’s not going to happen. He’s too inconsistent of a thrower, and the Patriots do too many things well on defense. Expect a low-scoring and tight game throughout, with either Brady making a positive difference or Peyton making a negative one. It will be sad to see Peyton Manning’s career end like this, but it’s been an excellent career for #18. Patriots squeak this out late, and advance to yet another Super Bowl.
PICK = Patriots -3 (-110)