The NFL Championship Round is upon us, and the first game of the weekend is Sunday at 2:05pm ET with the Broncos playing host to the Patriots. Here's my analysis.
You can never count out New England. That is the number one rule of the NFL playoffs, and has been for more than a decade. Last week, they put an end to the Chiefs' 11-game winning streak despite a fierce comeback by Kansas City and successfully moved on to the Championship game.
Now, though, they face a tougher competition. They're used to playing at home in the playoffs, but this time they'll be on the road in Denver, a very tough place to play. They have suffered countless injuries this season and even with their great defense and the immortal Tom Brady at QB, they aren't as good as they have been in years past. They've still got Edelman, Gronkowski and Brady, making their passing offense a real force, but they have virtually no running game to speak of and are very one dimensional. This is going to be a really, really tough game for them.
Denver looked really strong in their win last week against the Steelers, which is impressive given that they had to deal with the ever-controversial first round bye and the way it tends to ruin momentum. Now that they're back on a normal schedule of playing a game 7 days after the previous one, I think they can find their rhythm. Peyton Manning wasn't amazing vs. Pittsburgh, but he was good enough, and the rejuvenated running game with CJ Anderson has the ability to bust a big play here and there. Combined with the superstar ability of WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, it's tough to stop the Broncos' offense.
Defensively, Denver has the best unit in the league, and they have played that way all season. They leave no doubt that they can just about anyone down, with a superb passing defense and a great pass rush led by Von Miller and Demarcus Ware.
Denver's going to take this one. It's really hard to win in Denver, especially as the weather turns cold, and while the Patriots are a great team with a coach that always has them prepared, I think Denver has enough in them to make it to the Super Bowl.
Broncos 22, Patriots 19.
Who do you say wins this installment of the Manning - Brady rivalry?