NFL Playoff preview: AFC Title Game
SOUTH FLORIDA, January 17, 2014 — The matchup NFL fans have been waiting for is finally here. The New England Patriots travel to take on the Denver Broncos for the Lamar Hunt Trophy.
While many NFL seasons come with surprises, 2013 was a year for the very best to slug it out in the games that matter most. The Super Bowl is an entertainment event. The AFC Title Game is just football.
How we got here: Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have both lit the league up for over a decade and shattered NFL records. Manning has the statistics and Brady has the rings. This year Manning threw 55 touchdowns and only ten interceptions with 5,477 yards passing, both NFL records. Both teams have high-powered offenses with vulnerabilities on defense. They both had bye weeks in the first round and dispatched weaker opponents with little difficulty in the second.
While the NFC Title Game is based on a mutual hatred, the AFC Title Game is based on mutual admiration and respect.
History: Brady holds a 10-4 series edge, including wins in the 2003 Divisional Playoffs and the 2004 AFC Title Game. Manning’s biggest moment came in the 2006 AFC Title Game. Last year, Denver went into New England and Manning led the Broncos to a 24-0 halftime lead. Brady led a thrilling comeback as the Patriots won 34-31 in double overtime.
Prediction: Flip a coin. These teams are as evenly matched as it gets. Home field is not a factor. The one advantage New England has is the ability to run the football. They have gone from being a Brady passing machine to a power running team that scored six touchdowns on the ground last week. In a close game in cold weather in the fourth quarter, the ability to play smash mouth gives the Patriots the slightest advantage in this game.