"In the fading light of a January day out west, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will meet again..." - Marc Sessler, NFL.com
While the game featuring Seattle and San Francisco will feature strong defenses, the AFC Championship will focus on two players: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady...
Loaded with receiving talent, Denver's light only comes on when Manning is in the zone. The much talked about neck surgeries aside, Manning has been red hot in 2013, leading his Broncos all the way to the AFC Championship. Post season travails have haunted #18, but few of his playoff losses can be attributed to him. Dropped passes and turnovers have held Manning to only one Lombardy Trophy. In the playoffs, Tom Brady holds a 2-1 lead over Manning, but that should change today. While many are wondering if this is the last time football fans will see these two guaranteed first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks face off in a post season game, I think it's a bit premature. Make no mistake, future pondering-s aside, this game will be won or lost by the play of these two immensely talent signal callers.
Manning has a better offensive cast around him than Tom Brady. New England will be without all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski, and they have more than a few wide receivers who are nursing injuries. It may come down to former Rams' slot receiver Danny Amendola, who's nursing a groin injury but is expected to play. The run game has emerged for new England down the stretch. LaGarrett Blount is averaging four yards a carry, and lit up the field last week against Indianapolis, rushing for 166 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Denver has injury issues on defense, but the loss of Von Miller seems to have inspired the Broncos defender to new heights. They've suddenly become stubborn against the run, which could be a key factor today. New England can boast the best run offense of the remaining playoff teams.
My final score prediction? Denver: 34-31 Enjoy the game!