Date: Sunday, Jan. 24
Time: 3:05 p.m. ET
Venue: Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver
This season’s AFC championship game looks very familiar, with the New England Patriots battling it out with the Denver Broncos. These two teams are the best when it comes to quarterback power — Tom Brady of the Pats and Peyton Manning of the Broncos. And what’s even more interesting is that these two American football greats will be facing each other in a rather colorful rivalry spanning more than a decade.
This matchup will be a little different, however. Peyton Manning, not Brock Osweiler, will be the Broncos’ quarterback, and the Patriots will have receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and tight end Rob Gronkowski back and healthy. Jamie Collins, who injured his back Saturday against the Chiefs, also could play after missing the regular-season matchup. The Patriots lost Hightower and Gronkowski to injuries during the game earlier this season before the Broncos won in overtime. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s receivers were Brandon LaFell, Keshawn Martin and Chris Harper (yikes) with Edelman and Amendola out with injuries
The New England Patriots hope to clinch their third Super Bowl appearance since the 2011 season. Tom Brady is completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 302 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Brady has three touchdown passes in his last three games. Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski have combined for 183 receiving yards and two touchdowns while Keshawn Martin has two receptions. The New England Patriots ground game is averaging 38 yards per contest, and Steven Jackson leads the way with 16 yards on six carries. Defensively, New England is allowing 20 points and 378 yards per game. Patrick Chung leads the Patriots with nine tackles, Chandler Jones has a sack and Dont’a Hightower has a pass deflection.
The Denver Broncos look to reach their second Super Bowl in the last three seasons. Peyton Manning is completing 56.8 percent of his passes for 222 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. Manning has two touchdown passes in his last five games. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas have combined for 125 receiving yards while Bennie Fowler has two receptions. The Denver Broncos ground game is averaging 109 yards per contest, and C.J. Anderson leads the way with 72 yards and one touchdown. Defensively, Denver is allowing 16 points and 396 yards per game. Danny Trevathan leads the Broncos with nine tackles, Derek Wolfe has one sack and Aqib Talib has two pass deflections.
The Patriots are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 road games and 1-3-1 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight up win. The Broncos are 0-3-1 ATS in their last 4 home games and 3-1-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. The Patriots are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 meetings in Denver and 5-2 ATS in their last 7 meetings overall.
The Broncos defense is good enough to keep them in this game, but Manning is less than a shell of himself. The Broncos struggle to run the football and have a quarterback who can’t throw the ball like he used to. Brady has his weapons back, and the Pats are back to being that scary football team that’s hard to stop.