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Broncos vs Patriots: Manning vs Brady XVI

Tomorrow sees the 16th installment in the legendary rivalry between two of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game and as always there are high stakes when Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos go head to head against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

With the Patriots on a four game winning streak they have been resurgent after a slow start to the 2014 season but now find themselves at 6-2 after a 2-2 start and with a chance to place themselves in the first seed position for the playoffs if they manage to defeat Denver tomorrow. The Broncos are also on a 4 game winning streak so they will walk in to Gillette Stadium full of confidence especially having beaten the Patriots when the two teams last met in last seasons AFC Championship game.

That victory in January avenged the demons of a 34-31 comeback victory by Brady’s Patriots earlier in that season when New England rallied from a 24-0 halftime deficit to knock off the Broncos in their own back yard but with Denver’s 26-16 postseason victory a couple of months after that encounter just mentioned Manning tied his head to head postseason record against Brady to 2-2 all-time.

Unfortunately for Peyton history does suggest that the Patriots could well come out as the victors tomorrow with Brady holding a 10-5 all-time winning record over his old foe. With New England’s huge 51-23 win over Chicago last Sunday this team is slowly moving through the gears week by week and finding ways to win after winning a narrow one against the Jets 27-25 the week before and knocking off the Bills in their own backyard 37-22.

With a bye week next week for the Patriots a win tomorrow against Denver would set them up perfectly for their remaining 7 games and allow them to focus on their tough tasks ahead as they go in search of claiming home field advantage for the playoffs; something that would definitely benefit the Patriots if they have to play the Broncos in the postseason as taking Peyton Manning out of Mile High stadium would work huge favours for New England.

The most intriguing aspect of tomorrow’s matchup is the improved fortunes of both of these teams defenses and that is what makes this game a lot more interesting in comparison to the other meetings we’ve seen between these two teams in recent years. The Patriots may be without their best pass rusher in Chandler Jones but have made two additions at linebacker before the trade deadline this past Tuesday to cover for the season ending injury to Jerod Mayo and also possess the number one pass defense in the league.

Manning vs Brady Round 16

That will be put to the test by what many considering to be the most devastating offense in the NFL and one that has added a versatile running back to its armory in recent weeks to go along with the ridiculously effective passing game that Manning has going on in Denver. Peyton is tied with Andrew Luck for the most touchdowns in the league with 22 but has to just 3 interceptions to the third years 9. Manning’s efficiency will be vital to any success the Broncos want to have tomorrow especially going up against a Bill Belichick defense that thrives on forcing turnovers.

The Patriots are tied for 7th in the league with 10 forced fumbles and have recovered 8 which leaves them tied for 2nd in that category. They are also tied 8th in interceptions with 8 and 9th in sacks with 21 so you can tell that the Pats defense has been playing at a very high level. Star cornerback Darrelle Revis is back to his superstar best challenging receivers at the line of scrimmage and has locked down star studded wideouts such as AJ Green and Brandon Marshall along with rookie sensation Sammy Watkins in the first half of this season.

Add Revis to a secondary that includes the likes of Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan along with the return of Brandon Browner who made a massive personal improvement last week against the Bears following his debut against the Jets and it is clear to see this team has talent. That is not even including the players at the front of the D such as Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Rob Ninkovich and Vince Wilfork who are all key contributors to the success of this unit.

They in particular will need to step up in Chandler Jones’ absence who is arguably the Patriots best all round defensive player. As for the Broncos defense well they aren’t exactly slouches themselves after adding the likes of DeMarcus Ware, TJ Ward and Aqib Talib who left the Patriots for Denver this past offseason. Denver’s defense ranks high in key categories too; 6th in sacks with 23, 13th in interceptions with 7 but they are a lowly 31st in forced fumbles with 3 and just one recovery.

On paper despite Brady’s historical upper hand over Manning as well as the drastic improvements this Patriots offense has made week by week the Broncos offense is still edges that of New England and I feel that the outcome of this game will be decided by who wins out of the Patriots defense and Broncos offense when these two units go up against each other tomorrow.

As mentioned earlier Manning has 22 TD’s to just 3 picks and a host of weapons with the dynamic duo of Julius and Demaryius Thomas with the two having hauled in 15 of Peyton’s 22 scores this season. The other 7 are with Emmanuel Sanders who had 3 last week against the Chargers, 4 on the year, along with Jacob Tamme (2) and Wes Welker with just the one this season. Add that with running back Ronnie Hillman, he has broke on the scene in Montee Ball’s absence, who has 347 yards and 2 touchdowns in his past 4 games then you can begin to evaluate just how good this Denver offense is.

But as we know the Patriots offense is not looking too shabby either after fantastic performance after performance in October which ended with Tom Brady being announced AFC offensive Player of the month. Brady had a 129.1 passer rating, with 1,268 yards and 14 touchdowns in those 4 Patriots victories and personally I feel this has propelled him in to the MVP conversation along with Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, DeMarco Murray and JJ Watt.

Brady completed 30 of 35 passing attempts for 354 yards and 5 touchdowns last week leaving him with a quarterback rating of 148.4. Rob Gronkowski had 9 catches for 149 receiving yards and 3 TD’s and has definitely got back to his devastating best as Gronk now has 7 touchdowns this season leaving him tied for 4th. Brandon LaFell has also built up fantastic rapport with Brady and has 4 touchdowns on the year with 1 last week hauling in 124 yards in the process.

Ever since that Monday Night meltdown against the Chiefs all Brady and co have done is prove the doubters wrong. Anyone who did doubt Tom Brady’s abilities is quite frankly an idiot but he did what any fantastic player does and that was silence his critics on the field. The change in fortunes has brought a breath of fresh air along with hope in New England. Brady now has 18 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions on the year which ranks him 5th only behind Manning, Luck, Rivers and Rodgers.

Now that the Patriots have solved offensive line issues and the offense is performing at a high level you would have to say they are one of the best teams in the league due to their all round talent on defense, offense and special teams. Despite the loss of Stevan Ridley on the ground Shane Vereen has continued to be a brilliant weapon for Brady in the running and passing game and is the type of versatile player that Brady and Belichick love.

Vereen has one rushing touchdown for 281 yards giving him a 4.8 average and two receiving touchdowns for 208 yards. Jonas Gray was added to the running game fold last week and put in an impressive debut with the big bodied back racking up 98 yards off 20 carries averaging 4.9 yards a carry. If he can continue to impress he will be the Patriots’ equivalent of Denver’s Ronnie Hillman and a well welcomed running game addition to a team that possess one of the most efficient passing games in the NFL.

Gronk (7), LaFell (4), Vereen (2), Amendola (1) and Tyms (1) are the recepients of Brady’s passing scores this year but the guy who has been particularly important to the improvements of the passing game is Gronks new tight end partner Tim Wright. He possesses the other 3 Brady touchdown scores and Wright’s addition to the offense has given Brady a new tight end duo threat to trouble opposing offenses which has given Brady and the Pats offense to get all of these offensive players mentioned involved.

The rewards are key to see and after analysing both Denver and New England’s offenses tomorrows game will be a mouth watering encounter especially as we know the quality of both sides defenses as well. Personally I feel this is the most exciting regular season game since the November 7th encounter in the 2007 season when the 8-0 Patriots faced off against Manning’s 7-0 Colts. Despite the quality of both offenses both defenses can force mistakes in the opposing offenses and that is why I feel that it will be a nail biting game for fans of both teams that will end in a close one. I will go out on a limb and say that the Patriots get a repeat of that close win back in 07 and triumph over the Broncos 24-20 setting up a thrilling race for the first seed position come playoff time!

Tom Brady Still Better Than Peyton Manning When The Game Matters Most

The dust has settled on another football season, and like most years, it ended for Peyton Manning in the same manner. Despite being the best offensive player during the regular season, Manning let up in the most crucial game where it meant the most. Before the Super Bowl sports pundits discussed for two weeks how this game would be a legacy game for Manning, and Peyton did make a statement about his legacy. That legacy being that he is not a good playoff quarterback.

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The Super Bowl loss made his playoff record sub .500 again, like it had been until he defeated the Patriots in the AFC Championship this year to reach .500 at 11-11. Now standing at 11-12 lifetime in the postseason with just one Super Bowl title, the discussion of Peyton being the greatest quarterback of all time can now be stopped. In three Super Bowls he’s now 1-2, and his first Super Bowl appearance didn’t come until his 8th season in the league.

Tom Brady, despite recent struggles, has the most playoff victories of all time with 18, and has just 8 losses. He hasn’t won a title in 9 seasons now, but he’s led the Patriots to 2 Super Bowls in that span, and only got knocked out of the first round of the playoffs twice. Even if Brady never wins another title, he’ll be remembered as one of the best playoff quarterbacks of all time, which is the opposite of Peyton. The only other quarterback to start 5 Super Bowls was Joe Montana for the 49ers.

If you compare Peyton and Brady, it’s important to also realize who each quarterback had as offensive weapons. With the Colts, Manning always had Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Dallas Clark, all of whom were elite receivers for Manning to throw to. When Brady won his three championships, he had relative unknowns he was passing to. Some of the biggest names Brady had was Troy Brown and Deion Branch. Had Brady had the core that Peyton did during his Colts days, he may have an extra championship or two. Read more

Pats AFC Championship Game Match-Up Mania: Coach vs. QB

NFL: New England Patriots Rookie Minicamp

When the AFC Championship Game unfolds on Sunday in Denver football fans everywhere will be asking the same question: What does Bill Belichick have in store for Peyton Manning and the Broncos record-setting offense, records formerly owned by the Foxboro-based team?

At different points this season, Manning and the Denver Broncos appeared bulletproof and the Patriots appeared to be a shell of a formerly equally potent juggernaut. So-called experts might have doubted the possibility of the New England Patriots reaching this deep into the playoffs. Yet, the Pats are here nonetheless.

We’ve got a rematch we might not have expected when Rob Gronkowski was lost for the season on December 8. Since then, a restructured offense has the NEP offense rolling again thanks to LeGarrette Blount and a machine-like offensive line.

Blount may or may not run wild versus a suspect Denver defense, but the key match-up remains Manning’s offense against Belichick’s defense. No offense, Matt Patricia, but it’s always BB we see coaching the defense up during the game.

You remember the regular season game won by the Pats. Denver ran well as the Pats focused on the passing attack, checking Manning effectively enough to stage an epic rally. Will the same plan unfold tomorrow? That plan relied on trying to disguise what the defense planned to do before the snap. After the snap? Disruption. Or, as Belichick described it:

Disguising is certainly a big part of the game and it’s important, but it’s not as important as playing what you have called. If you can’t play what you have, then it doesn’t matter if you disguise it or not, it’s probably not going to be very good.

Also, don’t forget the apparently genuine respect both men have for each other. Belichick and Manning offer only praise for each other.

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Next Game Up The AFC Championship: Patriots vs Broncos

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!

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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

AFC Championship Preview: Patriots @ Broncos

Two HOF quarterbacks will be facing off in the greatest rivalry of the past decade


For the third straight year, the New England Patriots are just one win away from another trip to the Superbowl. Are you surprised? This has been a roller-coaster of a year. Who’s standing in the way this season? Old nemesis Peyton Manning and his record-breaking 55 TDs and 5,477 yards will host the quarterback with the most wins (18) in NFL Playoff history, Tom Brady. Peyton Manning is 10-11 in the postseason.

In the Superbowl era, Belichick & Brady have had more games together (191) as starting QB and head coach then Shula & Marino (184) and Noll & Bradshaw (158). The Patriots have gone 148-43 (.775) since 2001, an incredible accomplishment. Their improbable 12-4 regular season record is a true reflection of the “system” Belichick has put in place for the past dozen years. It’s no secret that rookies and reserves have stepped up in absence of multiple key starters being lost for the season (Wilfork, Mayo, Vollmer, Gronk, Welker, Hernandez). While Brady versus Manning is still the main attraction of Sunday afternoon, there are a bunch of impactful story-lines and keys to victory in this matchup of epic proportions. In the past 62 games, the Patriots have only been outscored by 8 points or more in just 2 games (Steelers 2011 and Ravens AFC Championship 2012). This will be a tight game with a small margin for error on both sides of the ball. Check out my collection of notable areas to keep an eye on during the AFC Championship:

1) Red Zone Efficiency: The Broncos are 1st in the NFL having scored a touchdown in 76.6% of their trips inside the 20-yard line compared to the Patriots’ 57.8% clip. Holding Denver to a few field goals is integral for New England. Manning lead his squad to a NFL record 606 total points for, averaging out to 37.1 PPG. Despite being held to 13 against the Jets and 6 points against the Bengals, the Patriots rounded off the year averaging 28.6 PPG and 35.1 PPG over their past 9 games – Indianapolis included. If the New England defense can make a few plays in their own territory with their backs against the wall, it will bode well for another chance at snagging the Lombardi trophy. Assuming the Broncos receive the opening kick-off, going down a few touchdowns on the road is not a good look.

2) Time Management: Keeping the ball out of Peyton’s hands is inevitable; however, controlling the clock is not. The Patriots have developed a signature style of smash-mouth football over the past few weeks lead by impressive performances from the ever-consistent offensive line and LeGarrette Blount. The Patriots are 3rd in the NFL in 4th quarter time-of-possession at 55.1%, compared to the Broncos’ 50.8%. New England and Denver both score the most at 11.2 points per 4th quarter, which is interesting considering the Pats are 23rd in the NFL in the 2nd quarter scoring an average of 6.5 compared to the Broncos’ 9.7. Time management is crucial but Demaryius Thomas can break one at the blink of an eye. The key is for the defense to put the offense in a position to pound the rock and burn the clock.

3) Special Teams: A wild sequence of events lead to a Colts safety, Ryan Allen injury, Brady PAT holding and Gostkowski’s first career punts. In an analysis put together by Dallas News’
Rick Gosselin, the Patriots rank 1st overall in Special Teams. The stat includes 22 different categories but this is no surprise to the New England faithful. Belichick preaches execution in all three aspects of the game every week. Gostkowski had a career year kicking38/41 FGs and stepped up admirably averaging 41.8 YPP on 5 punts and a long of 53 yards in the Divisional Round. Ryan Allen is back to practice and is expected to play on Sunday. Football is a game of inches and whether it’s a punt pinned inside the 5 or a PAT hold, every play matters. A clean special teams performance will put less pressure on the offense and defense.

Stay tuned on game day for part two of my preview and a final score prediction!

Patriots-Broncos: A Mile High Peyton Manning Leaves Tom Brady A Voice Mail (VIDEO)

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Patriots QB Tom Brady & Broncos signal caller Peyton Manning square off for the 15th time during this Sunday’s AFC Championship. It looks like Manning may be slowed down by his new “Mile High” habit though. This voicemail obtained by our friends at Townie News is evidence that the Manning Face may be on the “Wacky Tobacky”.

Patriots win by 7 on a pick six because Peyton thought the corner was a large bag of Doritos…

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