The AFC Championship Game between the Denver Broncos (13-3) and the New England Patriots (12-4) will mark the 15th time legendary QBs Peyton Manning and Tom Brady has faced each other. Brady and the Patriots have won 10 of those 14 times.
But with all the weapons the Broncos have, and the home crowd behind them, you’ve got to favor the Broncos in this one... right?
When Peyton Manning chose to play for the Broncos, he did so to get back to the Super Bowl. Denver happily obliged by adding veteran WR Wes Welker to a already potent recieving corps of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. The unexpected development of TE Julius Thomas and strong running of RB Knowshon Moreno offer an embarrassment of riches in terms of offensive weapons.
The Patriots have quietly re-invented themselves as a smash-mouth running team, which makes Tom Brady that much tougher to defend. Just ask the Colts, who gave up six rushing TDs to the Patriots last week.
The emergence of RB LeGarrette Blount (140 yards four TDs last week), in league with Stevan Ridley (two TDs last week), presents the Broncos defense with a difficult challenge. Do they stack the box to stop the run? If they do that they will be vulnerable to the pass, which Brady will be sure to exploit.
With a trip to the Super Bowl riding on Sunday's outcome, check out some of the historic milestones in play:
If the Patriots win:
A victory on Sunday would send Brady to his sixth Super Bowl, the most by a starting quarterback in NFL history.
A win ties New England coach Bill Belichick with legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry for the most playoff wins of all-time (20).
Finally, with a win New England will tie Dallas and Pittsburgh for the most Super Bowl berths in NFL history (8).
If the Broncos wins:
If Denver defeats New England, the Broncos would tie New England for the third-most Super Bowl appearances in NFL history (6).
Head Coach John Fox would become just the sixth coach in NFL history to lead two different franchises to the Super Bowl.
Peyton Manning would become the fourth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to lead the league in passing yards and TDs and also advance to the Super Bowl that season. Manning would join Dan Marino (1984), Kurt Warner (2001) and Tom Brady (2007) as the only QBs to accomplish the feat.