Guest post by Rob Hyland of nepatstalk.com
Both The Patriots and Broncos come into the AFC Championship game quite comfortably with wins against Indianapolis and San Diego respectively, but this match-up looks to be an instant classic including yet another Brady – Manning match-up. Here’s everything you need to know to be prepared for this week’s matchup.
The Game Plan…
When the Patriots have the Ball — The Patriots Coming off three straight games of ground dominance and an outstanding 6 rushing touchdowns last week will be looking to continue their “ground an pound” mentality. Without Von Miller and with the 25th ranked rush defense this season the Broncos could have trouble stopping the Blount – Ridley combo. Once establishing the run look for Brady and company to try out some deep play action passes to try and gouge a Denver secondary that may be missing it’s top corner.
The Broncos surely will be loading the box to try and stop Blount from running, and also will feel they can take their chances in man coverage and blitzing with no deep threat available for the Patriots. The Broncos may lack organic pressure without Von Millar but they will look for pressure right up the middle in Brady’s face from interior linemen and blitzing linebackers.
When the Broncos Have the Ball – The Broncos, behind Peyton Manning and the number one offense in the league, will look to spread out the Patriots inconsistent secondary and sprinkle in some big runs against a weak Patriot run defense. With four elite weapons I see Peyton Manning doing anything in his power to put points on the board and bury the underdog Patriots, especially after the last meeting where he only threw for 150 yards on 50% completion.
The Patriots defense will look to play a “bend but don’t break” style of defense, trying to hold Manning and the Broncos to field goals rather than touchdowns. The Patriots will probably always have two safeties deep to keep everything in front and minimize big plays. A good mix of man and zone will be seen but press coverage on the outside receivers will be a must. Pressure with only four rushers is also a must as the Patriots will not want to blitz Manning too often.
4 Things To Watch For…
- The Brady – Manning Matchup — This one comes as a no brainer as it’s all anyone will be talking about all week. This week’s matchup is the second meeting of the season and 15th all time between Brady and Manning. Brady leads the head to head matchup with a 10-4 record and a 2-1 record in the playoffs. Manning will be looking to tie the playoff record between him and Brady while also hoping to bring his overall playoff record (10-11) up from below .500. Brady will look to supplant himself as the elite quarterback of his time and advance to another chance at the elusive fourth ring. No Matter the victor, from a fan’s perspective this should be a terrific matchup to watch and could be career defining for either QB
- The Coaching Staffs — Many NFL fans see the one true advantage that the Patriots have as Bill Belichick, but this game will come down to coaching and game planning on both sides. Which teams game plan will better contain the other QB, who will make the better adjustments, who can design plays to get receivers open, and lastly will Belichick take the wind?
- The Pass Rush — Neither team is an elite pass rushing team, but they are by no means slouches when getting after the QB. The Patriots Chandler Jones ended the season with 11.5 sacks and the Broncos Shaun Philips ended with 10, so both teams have pass rushing capability. Whichever team generates a pass rush consistently will most likely win this game and a quarterback under duress leads to mistakes which could be costly
- The Secondary — In a game including Peyton Manning and Tom Brady there is bound to be at least 60 passing attempts. This puts a lot of pressure on both secondary’s, and with Aqib Talib battling a hip injury and Chris Harris, the best corner for the Broncos, getting an MRI today on his knee other players in the secondary will have to step up to not get torn apart by the opposing quarter back.
Don’t Miss it…
The Time – Sunday, Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. ET
The Place – Sports Authority Field at Mile High
The Network – CBS