AFC Championship Preview: New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos

On paper, Championship Games should be played by the No. 1 and No 2 seeds in each conference. More often than not in the NFL, conventional wisdom goes out the window. Upsets happen. The NFL Playoffs are just …well, crazy. And on a crazy year already, where we’ve seen two teams lose games they should have won in unimaginable ways, and one team fall short after a seemingly impossible comeback, the thing about the NFL Playoffs that’s more surprising than anything else is …that the No. 1 and No. 2 teams are in playing in the Championship Game. For both Conferences.

Here’s a preview and our picks for today’s AFC Championship game:

New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos

Sunday, 3:05pm, CBS


Manning-Brady 17 is upon us, and though Championship Games are not the time for nostalgia, we should all take a moment before the game starts, drink it in, and enjoy it. This will probably be the last time we’ll get to see two of the greatest quarterbacks of their generation facing off against each other.

Sunday will mark the fourth time these two players will face off in a championship game. That’s the most in the Super Bowl era. Tom Brady has lost six career games in Denver (He has a 2-6 record including the postseason), and he hasn’t beat Manning in a playoff game since 2005.

Both teams have looked down-right beatable this year, with the Patriots actually losing to the Peyton Manning-less Broncos and the Dolphins, to close out the season, and the Broncos managing to throw a few games they should have won. So, with the pressure on, who pulls out the biggest game of the year? Asking us to guess the winning lottery numbers might be easier than answering that question.

Why New England Will Win

It’s just hard to pick against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, especially with Edelman and Gronkowski healthy. New England’s offense is so hard to defend against, and though their defense is not as good as Denver’s, with the way Denver’s offense has been struggling, they don’t really need to be. All they need do is limit the mistakes, put some pressure on Peyton and let Brady do his thing.

Why Denver Will Win

Defense wins championships, right? Well, this is the year Denver puts that theory to the test. Peyton Manning is not who he used to be. His arm strength just isn’t there, his mobility is severely compromised. And yet Peyton Manning’s brain is perfectly fine, and if you give him half a chance to beat you, he will. Denver’s made a living of hanging on and then kicking up another gear at the end of games, so they won’t get desperate if they’re down. It might all come to down to whether Peyton has it in himself to engineer another game winning drive. And I’m not betting against Peyton Manning.

Alyssa’s Pick: Denver 27, New England 24

While the perception seems to be that Tom Brady and the Patriots will march into Denver and knock off the top-seeded Broncos, I'm going with the opposite and trusting my gut instinct on this one. Peyton Manning is 2-1 in AFC Championship games against Brady and the Patriots, and Sunday he'll make it 3-1 in another classic Brady/Manning showdown that will come down to the final possession, whether that's a game-winning touchdown or field goal or a defensive stop. I'm going Broncos, baby.

Lizzie’s Pick: Denver 34, New England 30

This is clearly a sentimental pick for me, but I just can’t go against Peyton Manning in what will probably be his last chance to get another ring. I can’t. Even if common sense dictates it. Common sense doesn’t play this game. Sometimes heart does.

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