By Will Martin
New England Patriots vs Denver Broncos
Sunday – January 19 – 2:00 PM
Sports Authority Field at Mile High – Denver
Now that the final four of the NFL has been determined for this upcoming Sunday, Championship Sunday for all NFL fans; you truly have two diversely different dynamics at play this weekend.
The Future versus The Past which shall gift us with The Present! I hope Colin and Russell take note and DVR this early game. The Denver Broncos (13-3) face off against the New England Patriots (12-4) in the early game on Sunday.
Back in 1998 I remember all the hype and expectations placed upon a quarterback who was drafted the same year as Peyton Manning. No one gave the Son of a Cajun Hurler any chance at all to be successful in the NFL as a Colt.
How you experts liking that Ryan Leaf career now, huh? Yeah, I thought so.
Seven years removed from his only Super Bowl victory over the Bears, Peyton Manning has everything at his disposal to get to the next round of the NFL season. Even an upgrade to a tougher brand of pony has to help one mile high. The goal is to get to New Jersey and get trophy number two.
Tom Brady has been the man since 2001 (save for an injury riddled 2008 season due to a knee injury). We all remember the poise he exhibited in the shadow of Drew Bledsoe during the 2001 playoffs. The Tuck Game in the snow with Oakland, and the road win at Pittsburgh before making history in New Orleans on February 3, 2002 over a heavily favored Rams team.
Brady and his New England Patriots were the team of the millennium with three Super Bowls in four years. Many a playoff game against the Colts and Peyton Manning. Usually with a great result for the Beantowners.
This Sunday will mark the 15th time that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will meet. In the last 14 meetings New England has won ten times. Earlier in the year there was that Sunday Night Fiasco in Massachusetts that Denver let get away in overtime with an unlucky bounce.
A closer look inside the numbers tells us that although the Patriots won the first meeting in this ‘Branning Bowl’ the quarterbacks have split the last eight meetings while New England has won the last three.
Statistically, this rivalry does show some interesting factoids.
Tom Brady in 25 playoff games has averaged a 62% completion ratio per game, 246 yards a game, 42 career touchdowns and 22 career interceptions with a passer rating of 87.2 with an 18-7 record.
Peyton Manning’s numbers aren’t shabby in comparison. In 21 career playoff games Manning has averaged a 63.5% completion percentage while tossing for 281 yards a game for 34 touchdowns and 22 picks with a QB rating of 88.6 and a career record of 10-11.
New England has been aided by a very successful run game when playing Peyton Manning over the years. You can anticipate more of the same with LeGarrette Blount getting lots of touches. Denver can counter with the likes of Knowshon Moreno, Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas.
New England teams were able to get many a win on Sir Peyton with solid ball control while the Colts and Broncos were more apt to throw like crazy.
That changes this week. In what I will term a complete role reversal look for Peyton Manning to be successful keeping the ball on the ground and not throwing as much as we are used to seeing. New England’s defense is as good as it has been in years past. Look for Denver to find weakness on the weak side of the secondary as Peyton will call more ‘Omaha’ audibles than one might be used to hearing this Sunday.
Brady fans: Are you aware that after a 10-0 start in the postseason Tom Brady has been a paltry 8-7 record wise? Manning has gone 7-6 in that 15 game span. Practically a dead heat numerically.
It goes without saying that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning XV will be special. In the end however the laws of karma dictate that a lucky bounce and an expert usage of the clock can and will work in the favor of the Denver Broncos and Sir Peyton.
Prediction: Denver 26 New England 24.
The irony of all this? The press will start to finally give some respect to the longtime Volunteer who has been in the shadow of The Foxboro Fave. Brady’s star will now start to get a little dirty.