AFC Championship Game 2014 Time, Date, Preview, Online Streaming & Predictions: Patriots' Tom Brady, Broncos' Peyton Manning Duel For NFL Super Bowl Berth
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Quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady cross paths yet again, for the fifteenth time, with a trip to MetLife Stadium and Super Bowl XLVIII on the line when the Denver Broncos (11-3) face the New England Patriots (12-4) Sunday afternoon in the AFC Championship game.
"It's going to a barnburner," said Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway.
The two future National Football League Hall of Famers will meet for the fourth time in the postseason, third time in the AFC Championship game in the last 11 years, with Brady holding the lead in head-to-head competition, 10-4 lifetime against Manning, including a Week 12 victory over Denver this season. Manning and the Broncos jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead in their Nov. 24 match before blowing the lead and losing to the Patriots, 34-31, in overtime.
The Patriots have found different ways to win this season, ending the year with a second-seed playoff berth and a bye week in the AFC playoffs, despite key personnel missing from the starting lineup including TE Rob Gronkowski (torn ACL/MCL), OT Sebastian Vollmer (leg), and TE Aaron Hernandez (police investigation that led to his arrest prior to the start of the season). QB Tom Brady tallied a quarterback rating of 87.3 - his lowest since 2003, but still managed to throw for 4,343 yards and 25 touchdowns.
New England RB LeGarrette Blount, who only had two carries for 13 yards in the Patriots-Broncos November match-up, has stepped up for the Patriots, rushing for a career-high 189 rushing yards in the Patriots' Week 17 34-20 win over Buffalo and 166 yards against the Indianapolis Colts in last Saturday's 43-22 blowout win over Indianapolis, including four touchdowns.
The Patriots defense also had to make adjustments due to injuries throughout the year, playing without DTs Vince Wilfork (Achilles) and Tommy Kelly (knee) in the starting lineup, as well as LBs Jerod Mayo (shoulder) and Brandon Spike (knee), leaving New England with only six linebackers on the roster going into last weekend's night game. The Patriots' secondary has managed to maintain stability on the defensive unit, with S Devin McCourty, and CBs Logan Ryan, Aqib Talib, and Alfonzo Dennard combining for 10 interceptions this season, picking off Colts QB Andrew Luck four times in the last week's AFC Divisional playoff game.
The Patriots' secondary will have their hands full with Manning, who started at a blistering pace, shattering league records, including compiling 606 points this year (most in the history of the NFL and the only team ever to hit the 600-barrier), and breaking the set NFL season records for passing (threw for 5,477 yards) and touchdowns (tossed 55 touchdowns).
The Broncos earned the top seed in the AFC playoffs, including home-advantage, defeating the San Diego Chargers 24-17 last Sunday afternoon to advance to the AFC Championship Game for the first time in eight years. Manning threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns, with Denver RB Knowshon Moreno, who had a career-high 1,038 rushing yards this season, rushing for 82 yards off of 32 carries.
The Broncos' defense has been more human when compared to the eye-popping numbers the Denver offense has produced this season,entering the postseason 19th in the league in yards allowed (356.0 per game), 22nd in points allowed (24.9 ppg), and tied for 13th for in sacks (41).
Denver's best defensive player, LB Von Miller, is out for the year after suffering a torn ACL late in the year, while starting CB Chris Harris suffered his own ACL injury. The Broncos will also miss DE Derek Wolfe, who has not played since late Nov. 24 due to seizure-like symptoms he experienced before Denver's Week 13 matchup at Kansas City, was also placed on IR this week.
Predictions: The Broncos have been putting up video game numbers all year, wearing defenses down with a high-paced offense that has worn out opponents. But the Patriots have had a knack for pulling off victories, morphing into whatever team they need to be that given week. The Patriots put up over 40 points last weekend with Brady not throwing a single touchdown pass, letting his running game take over the game, keeping Colts QB Andrew Luck off the field while scoring six touchdowns in the game. The duo of RBs Stevan Ridley and Blount combined for 1,545 rushing yards and 14 TD this season, with the Patriots still able to throw RBs Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden at the Denver defense to keep them off-balance. With depth at running back and defensive backs that can play the Broncos' wide receivers tough throughout the day, the Patriots should be able to keep Manning off the field as long as possible, punching their ticket to yet another Super Bowl appearance for Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Brady.
You can catch the New England Patriots-Denver Broncos AFC Championship Sunday, 3 p.m. EST on CBS.
Live Stream (online)
Live stream coverage can be seen on NFL RedZone.
Live scores could be followed by clicking here.
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