AFC Championship brings Chapter 17 of Brady vs. Manning
photo: Stew Milne, USA Today Sports
By: Ben Osmond
The AFC Championship game features two star quarterbacks who are no strangers to this stage, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. At this point, a novella could be written about the rivalry between these two, who are tied with a 2-2 record against each other in the postseason. Brady holds the overall record over Manning at 11-5. There are a host of stats that I could throw out there, but I’ll cut it short, as football involves 21 other players in addition to the quarterback.
The New England Patriots are favored over the Denver Broncos in the betting world by 3 points. Fortunately for the Broncos, they are the number 1 seed and will therefore have a home advantage. This is the 5th consecutive AFC championship appearance for the Patriots; they have won two of the last four. The Patriots are the reigning Super Bowl champions and are playing for a chance to repeat for the first time since the 2003 and 2004 seasons. For both Denver and New England, there are a number of records on the line regarding the winner of this championship game, and the Super Bowl if one of these AFC teams wins it all.
Denver brings the number one defense for the 2015 season to this game, a necessary ingredient in stopping a healthy Patriots offense. Denver’s offense has regained Peyton Manning, although the team will have to rely heavily on the defense, as I can’t see them keeping up with an effective New England offense. The Patriots averaged 29.1 points a game this regular season, while the Broncos manage to put up a mean of 22.2 points per game, 19th in the league. The Broncos defense, on average gives up only 18.5 points per game to opposing teams, but the Patriots aren’t far behind, giving up an average of 19.7 points per game. One major factor, quite possibly the reason that Denver is in this game and not the Steelers (due to a fumble in the 4th quarter), is turnovers. Bill Belichick is 15-0 in postseason games when his team wins the turnover battle. Although Denver has a top-notch defense, they are in the middle of the pack when it comes to turnovers. New England is significantly more efficient in the turnover battle. Denver has a -4 turnover differential, while New England boasts a +7 differential.
Ultimately, I see the Patriots managing this game more effectively and skating by with a win. Denver has the home advantage, but Belichick is a mastermind coach with too much playoff experience to lose against a team that struggled against an injury-depleted Steelers team.
New England 24 Denver 23