Game: New England Patriots (13-4) vs. Denver Broncos (14-3)
Date: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
Location: Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado
Broadcast: CBS (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms)
Odds: Denver favored by 4 points; over/under is 55
Online stream: NFL.com (Game Rewind, not live)
Injury Reports (Updated throughout the afternoon up until kickoff):
Out: LB Steve Beauharnais (Illness)
Questionable: P Ryan Allen (Shoulder), WR Aaron Dobson (Foot), WR Kenbrell Thompkins (Hip/Concussion)
Probable: WR Danny Amendola (Groin), CB Alfronzo Dennard (Knee, Shoulder), LB Dane Fletcher (Groin), LB Dont'a Hightower (Ankle), G Logan Mankins (Ankle), RB Shane Vereen (Groin)
UPDATE: Dobson will play, but Thompkins has been ruled out.
Probable: WR Demaryius Thomas (Calf), S Mike Adams (Thigh), TE Joel Dreessen (Knee), S Duke Ihenacho (Knee), T Winston Justice (Finger), G Chris Kuper (Ankle), QB Peyton Manning (Ankle), CB Kayvon Webster (Thumb)
Preview: Was there ever any doubt that these would be the two teams remaining in the AFC race at this point in the season? It was always going to be Tom Brady and his Patriots traveling to Denver to take on Peyton Manning and his Broncos.
It was fate.
Actually, it was incredibly strong play from both quarterbacks combined with some timely defense that brought these two squads one win away from another Super Bowl appearance.
Like the NFC Championship Game between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, this isn't the first time these teams have met this season. Back in Week 12, Denver traveled to New England and dominated the first half, storming out to a 24-0 lead at the break before the Patriots staged a comeback for the ages, eventually winning in overtime, 34-31.
Brady was damn near flawless in that outing: 34/50, 344 yards, 3 TDs.
Manning? He posted his worst game of his record breaking season: 19/36, 150 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
It's worth noting that Knowshon Moreno ran for 224 yards on a whopping 37 carries in that game and Denver gained a total of 280 yards on the ground. Had the defense buckled down and made even one more stop in that dreadful second half, it would have been a different ball game.
This time, Denver will play host to the AFC title game. We'll see how much of a different that makes, if any. Then again, the Patriots have been riding LeGarrette Blount lately, including his rumbling for 166 yards (a Patriots record) and four touchdowns last week against the Indianapolis Colts.
Who will prevail?
Prediction from The General: All the attention is on the Brady vs. Manning match-up but that's not even a real match-up. It's Brady's offense, sans his most dangerous weapon, Rob Gronkowski, against Manning's offense, which is healthy and firing on all cylinders, save for a slightly hobbled DeMaryius Thomas, who was a late addition to the injury report with a calf issue.
I'm not sure home field advantage will play into this game nearly as much as turning the ball over. These teams are evenly matched with multiple ways to emerge victorious, be it on the ground or through the air.
Mistakes will be made; whoever makes the least will win.
Pick: Broncos 30, Patriots 28
Prediction from Tommy Gun:
Ahhhhhh .... so conflicted.
Everything in my person tells me that Mr. Manning isn't going to squander another 24-point lead like he did earlier this year. By the same token, everything in my person tells me he's not going to get another 24-point lead later this afternoon.
Brady and Co. have an inferior team. And unlike my NFC West pick (49ers, who I think are overall better than Seahawks), I can't help but lean toward New England. Why? Every time the "Pats" are supposed to lose, they typically don't. In a weird way, too, I think that Brady will go down as a better QB than Manning because of "rings" and doing more with less.
In other words, an over-achieving Patriots team that goes deep into the playoffs, and isn't really all that good, is bound to upset the apple cart. I really have no idea how it happens -- even in favorable temperatures in Denver, Colo., for Manning -- but I think Brady and Belichick have one last "Ace" up their sleeves.
I'm not crowning the Patriots Super Bowl 2014 winners just yet, but rather Peyton Manning conquerors.
Pick: Patriots 41, Broncos 38
Be sure to keep it locked here all Sunday afternoon because we will have complete Patriots vs. Broncos results, including quarter-by-quarter updates, from kickoff to final whistle RIGHT HERE.