The AFC matchup of Championship Sunday sees two of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game go head to head once again as Tom Brady and the New England Patriots go on the road to take on the Peyton Manning led Denver Broncos with a place at Super Bowl XLVIII at stake!
The hype around this game is incredible as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning face off in the 15th installment of a quarterback rivalry that has lasted for over a decade. With both of these QB’s in the later years of their 30’s you would probably say that this could be the last time that these two face off with the stakes being as high as they are for tomorrow.
But as we know you should never count out Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Manning has finally got to where he wants to be and that is within reach of a third Super Bowl appearance; he is having a monster season having broken Tom Brady’s regular season record for passing touchdowns by throwing 55 and breaking Drew Brees’ passing yards record by racking up 5,477. These stats will count for nothing though if the season doesn’t end with Peyton hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in the air.
Tom Brady is quite simply Peyton Manning’s kryptonite and there is no doubt about it because history doesn’t lie. Even in recent memory you only have to look back at the week 12 encounter at Gillette Stadium where Tom Brady and co wiped out a Broncos lead of 24-0 to win the game 34-31 in overtime. That victory gave Brady his 10th victory over Manning in their 14 games against each other including the postseason. Let us look at the stats between the two in the encounters:
Now I will be the first to point out that tomorrow’s game between Denver and New England is not just about these two men as it is between two teams who are both hungry to play in the biggest sporting spectacle on earth but whoever wins out of Brady or Manning will have their picture posted on websites across the world for the next fortnight. Brady’s 10-4 career head-to-head over Manning says it all and his touchdown to interception ratio shows his efficiency. Brady leads in all categories but one and has a passer rating that is higher by 11! The only category that he doesn’t lead in is passing yardage and you could argue that it is because Manning is behind in most games so his teams have chased the games meaning he passes more but enough of that.
No offence to Peyton Manning fans but they love to use statistics to fight their corner. I don’t want to take anything away from Manning because he is one of the greatest to play at the position but unfortunately for him if the Broncos lose tomorrow that leaves Manning on his own with a record that nobody wants and that is a quarterback with the most losses in the postseason. 12 losses when it matters lost is unprecedented and that does not look good on anyone looking to leave a legacy.
Brady’s legacy will be uncanny if he and the Patriots win the Super Bowl this year. The same applies for head coach Bill Belichick; he claimed his 19th victory as a coach in the playoffs when New England eased past the Colts last week which now leaves him tied in second place with Don Shula. If the Patriots win tomorrow Belichick will tie Tom Landry for the most playoff wins with 20 and if dare I say it the Patriots win the Super Bowl that would be the perfect way for Belichick to break the record and it will leave him on 21.
Back to Brady and his legacy; he is so close to being the greatest quarterback of all-time and if he guides an injury depleted Patriots side that has so many similarities to 2001 Super Bowl winning side it will be the perfect way to cement his name as the greatest to play the game. Brady is tied for Super Bowl appearances with John Elway having played in 5. He and Elway have both won 3 of those which leaves Brady just one shy of Montana and Bradshaw’s record of 4 Super Bowl wins. Brady holds the record for playoff wins by a quarterback with 18 so a win tomorrow against Denver and a Super Bowl victory would see Brady end the 2013 season with 20 playoffs wins, 4 Super Bowl victories and 6 appearances in the big game which in my opinion leaves no debate as to who is the greatest quarterback to grace the NFL.
As I have pointed out though this is a team game and it will take a big performance from the New England Patriots to topple the Denver Broncos tomorrow. The Patriots are playing up to the title of underdog and why not because it puts pressure on the opponents. Personally I feel that they are underdogs as despite the fact that Brady can pick holes in a vulnerable Broncos secondary he goes up against a Broncos run defense that has improved in weeks gone by and they know that they have to stop the likes of Blount, Ridley and Vereen in order to win this game. On the flip side Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense is firing on all cylinders and the likes of Welker and Decker along with Julius and Demaryius Thomas will pose problems for a New England defense haunted by injuries.
For Denver to win this game is to score early because taking the pressure off Peyton Manning is a must especially in a conference championship which sees Manning take to the field in a game of his magnitude for the first time since the 2009 season (Brady on the other hand is making is 8th conference championship appearance). Now this may sound silly as it always applies but turnovers are the decisive and key factor for me. My explanation is that if the Patriots turn the ball over I feel they can still win this game but if the Broncos turn it over it’ll cost them and they will lose. The more pressure on the Denver Broncos tomorrow and the more likely it’ll be that they fall.
New England’s defense is led by the defensive mastermind that is Bill Belichick and despite injuries to Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork the younger guy on the team like Chandler Jones and Hightower have been big for this team. Last week saw the emergence of Jamie Collins and he will be looking to build on his success from that win over the Colts. Rob Ninkovich and Dane Fletcher also deserve a mention too and then there’s the secondary which possesses the likes of Aqib Talib, Devin McCourty, Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan who can all hold their own against the firepower of the Broncos offense.
If the Pats defense can continue to force turnovers it will give them a very good chance of walking out of Mile High as winners tomorrow. Nobody anticipated that the Pats offense would become the ground and pound juggernaut that it has done in recent weeks led by LeGarrette Blount who continued wrecking havoc last week when he ran in for 4 touchdowns and 166 rushing yards which tied a franchise record. If the ground game gets going again with the one-two punch of Blount and Ridley it will open up Shane Vereen in the backfield for Tom Brady and also give him plenty of play-action opportunities which we saw tear Denver apart earlier in the season. Julian Edelman will obviously be crucial to any success the Patriots have tomorrow night and it is also the perfect time for Danny Amendola to step out of the shadow of Wes Welker by outplaying his opposite number. I could sit here night and day writing comparisons but the fact of the matter is that this New England Patriots vs Denver Broncos game will be one for the ages and a playoff game that will be remembered for years to come as well as possibly playing a critical role in deciding an argument that has gone on for years. Brady vs Manning part 15: Let the games begin!
Prediction: Patriots 31-30 Broncos