On the 19th of January 2014 at 3:00pm EST the two biggest Titans in the NFL over the last 13yrs will clash for the fifteenth time at Mile High Stadium for the AFC Title. CBS Network and football fans across the globe couldn’t be happier for this is what makes sports great. It’s about seeing the cream rise to the top until the best of the best compete against one another for a shot at the ultimate prize. The media will try to sell you on Peyton Vs Brady. They will throw out the word “Legacy” like dollar bills in a strip club. They will exacerbate every statistical number they can dig up and dissect every angle imaginable to convince you of what could happen until the ball is finally kicked off and the real drama begins.
The Denver Broncos have earned the top seed in the AFC and have overcome a lot to get there. From fax machine “Problems” causing one of their best defenders in Elvis Dumervil to be released before the season began to having another key defensive star in Von Miller being suspended for 6 games for violating substance-abuse policy, to having multiple season ending injuries to key players (Von Miller included). Losing their head coach part way through the season for open-heart surgery was obviously a near fatal unexpected turn of events they were able to manage as well. But through it all the unequaled play of their Superstar quarterback and record breaking offensive output for the ages, The Broncos are one step closer to their goal.
On the other side of the ledger the turmoil, obstacles, distractions and losses the Patriots have suffered have been well documented and marveled at as well. As once again “The Patriot Way” has led New England back to their 8th AFC Title game in 13 years. This is an accomplishment that even the great Bill Russell would be in awe off. Both teams have been through a lot and have earned the right to play for conference supremacy on the road to the Super Bowl.
A lot has changed since the last time these two teams played each other earlier in the season. The Patriots had a record breaking 24 point deficit erased as Tom Brady and the offense surged ahead beating Denver in a bizarre 34-31 victory at Gillette Stadium. Since that match The Patriots lost the best TE in the game and the best red zone target in the NFL to a brutal head to knee collision against The Browns that shredded Rob Gronkowski’s ACL and MCL. Soon after the Patriots had their most devastating loss of the year causing them to lose the opportunity for the one seed at the hands of their division rivals Miami Dolphins, where New England failed to convert 3 times in the red area. For Pats nation there was no silver lining to be found. But for Bill Belichick and the coaching staff there was. Since then, The New England Patriots have morphed into a smash mouth locomotive running the ball with Blount force (Pun intended)! They have averaged over 39 points per game and allowed less than 17 points for their competition. There is no team playing better and hotter than them right now. LeGarrette Blount has emerged as the best running back in the playoffs. He has run for 431 yards (6.73 YPC) and 8 touchdowns in the last 3 games! They have reverted to the style of play that began their incredible dynasty over a decade ago. This team has transformed right before our eyes into something no one expected and they have done it with Tom Brady passing for less than 200 yards in each outing.
Come Sunday the Patriot defense will have to account for The Broncos Pro-Bowler TE J. Thomas who did not play during Denver’s defeat. This will be the ultimate test on defense for New England. Peyton Manning will have 4 Pro-Bowlers to throw the ball to with an offensive line that did not allow a single sack against The Chargers. The Patriots will also have to account for Denver’s running game. K Moreno ran for 224 yards averaging over 6.1 YPC the last time they played.
On the flipside The Broncos will have to deal with the most explosive running game they have faced all year. L. Blount only had 2 touches on their first meeting for 13 total yards as Brady was playing from behind throwing for over 340 yards with 110 yards going to J. Edelman and 90 yards going R. Gronkowski. Tom has averaged over 312 yards in the last 4 times he has played Denver (All victories). He has proven that he understands their scheme quite well but Brady will need more contributions from A. Collie this game and the continuance of D. Amendola and J. Edelman thriving off the play action from the run game. Pats fans will also hope for their rookie receiver A. Dobson to return but it is doubtful he will. Even though The Broncos are ranked 7th in the run defense, people should keep in mind most of that is due to other teams having to throw the ball a lot to catch up because of Denver’s high powered offense.
You can expect Denver to throw and you can expect New England to run in this game but don’t count out a reversal as well. It will all depend on the score and flow of the game. The good news for Pats Nation is that The Patriots are peaking at the perfect time and their secondary is looking healthy and strong! With a 10-4 record against Peyton, Belichick will be ready and Josh McDaniel’s will be sure to throw some new wrinkles Denver’s way as well.
Ultimately the fans for both of these two teams will debate, argue and rationalize the outcome only to be held hostage to the execution of the coaching staff and players come Sunday. One fan base will enjoy the bliss of victory while the other the heartache that comes with a season ending loss of this magnitude. The winner of the last three meetings in the AFC Championship between Brady and Manning have gone on to win the Super Bowl so if history repeats itself this game will have a significant impact on both players and their teams. Will this next game and outcome taint the legacy of one of the two giants among mortal men? I don’t believe so but if history holds true the next game for the victor will definitely raise their status to new heights. One thing is certain, years from now you will know the outcome of this game for it will be etched in every fiber of your memory. You will remember these titans and who fought and stood victoriously on the battlefield of the gridiron!
Written by: Opinion Slayer