New England Patriots (13-4) @ Denver Broncos (14-3)
The Broncos will win if...
Peyton Manning of the Playoffs plays like Peyton Manning of the Regular Season
Peyton Manning is the greatest Quarterback of all-time and has set NFL records this year in passing touchdowns in a season and passing yards in a season. He no longer has the arm-strength he once possessed in his prime, but he can still deliver a perfect throw in around 3 seconds after the ball is snapped and can make even the most disciplined defensive players jump offsides with his masterful pre-play snap count. (Omaha!) He made receiver Demaryius Thomas and Tight End Julius Thomas into Pro-Bowlers. Wherever he goes, Peyton makes people better. But...
The Broncos will lose if...
Peyton Manning of the Playoffs plays like, well, Peyton Manning of the Playoffs
Manning is the greatest Quarterback to ever play the game but he doesn't always deliver come Playoff time. In fact, Peyton has a track record of faltering with the season on the line. Why? Is it because he loses focus? No, Manning is the most focused Quarterback in Football. So why does Peyton struggle so much in the all-important games? Leave a comment if you think you know because I don't.
The Patriots will win if...
Bill Belichek gets Tom Brady enough touches
(Oh no, I don't know if I'm licensed to use Belichek's name!😨) Being a Giants and Colts fan I can't stand Brady or Belichek. But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate how dominant they've been and still are. Perhaps that's why Manning always falters, he doesn't have a quality coach, when he finally got one (Tony Dungy) he went on to win the Super Bowl. Perhaps... The Patriots are missing Pro-Bowlers Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Rob Gronkowski, and Matt Light and Pro-Bowler Wes Welker walked in Free Agency while role-player Aaron Hernandez is currently in jail. Yet New England still finished 12-4 and won the AFC East and are a game away from a 6th Brady-Belichek Super Bowl title.
(Although it should be noted that Brady-Belichek have not won a Super Bowl since New England was caught filming other teams practices.) Belichek greatly underused Quarterback Tom Brady last week, but if they're to upset the Broncos, he mustn't make the same mistake again.
The Patriots will lose if...
The Defense is unable to "contain" Peyton Manning
While we all know this game is virtually guaranteed of being a shoot-out, the Patriots will try to keep Manning from running wild. If they can limit him and the historical Denver offense to 25-30 points it will strongly increase their chances of pulling off the upset.
X Factor: The 4th Quarter
I know this one may seem a little bit obvious, but if Manning delivers in the 4th then there's no question who's going to be in wintry New York next week. The question is, will he deliver in the final period?
I really want to pick the Broncos. I really do. Peyton Manning is one of my favorite athletes of all-time and I'd really like to see him get a second ring. I really think he's that the best NFL Quarterback of all-time, with or without Super Bowl ring #2, but I just can't bring myself to pick a Broncos team that is missing Pro-Bowl Linebacker Von Miller and just barely escaped the 10-7 (yes 10-7!) Chargers last week over a Patriots team that is finding their rhythm at just the right time. Peyton and the Col-- er, Broncos, will jump out to a 17-9 halftime lead only to crumble in the final quarter.
Final Score: Denver 34 New England 36