We’ve been here before. The Denver Broncos that is.
The Broncos and the AFC Championship game are no strangers. Sunday will mark the ninth appearance the Broncos make in the biggest game the conference has to offer. The New England Patriots are old friends with the game as well. Sunday’s trip to Denver will be their 11th AFC Championship game. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers (15 appearances) and Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (11) have been in this position more than Sunday’s two rivals.
Sunday’s game in Denver will also match two of the most experienced AFC Championship contenders in history. The Broncos and Patriots have 17 combined previous appearances going into the game. Only the 2006 AFC Championship game between the Broncos and Steelers combined for more, with 19 combined previous appearances at the time.
Both the Broncos and Patriots are also well experienced in their respective roles for Sunday. The Broncos will be hosting their 6th AFC Championship at home, second only to Pittsburgh’s 11. The Patriots will be playing their 5th road AFC Championship game, second to the six road appearances for the Raiders.
To make things even more interesting, the Broncos and Patriots are the two most successful teams in history in their current roles. The Broncos are 4-1 at home in the AFC Championship game, the best mark (shared with New England) of any team with more than three home appearances.
On the flip side, the Patriots are the rare team who has enjoyed a history of success on the road in the AFC Championship game. Their 3-1 road record is the best in the conference for teams who have played two or more road games. In fact, the Broncos are the only other AFC team with a winning record on the road at 2-1.
So there you have it. The rivalry and history of Sunday’s AFC Championship game extends far beyond Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. The matchup will be between arguably the two best AFC Championship game franchises in history. Of teams that have been here three or more times, only the Buffalo Bills (.800) have a better winning percentage than Denver (.750) and New England (.777). Something has to give.
But with a victory Sunday, the Broncos can stamp their ticket to Super Bowl XLVII while also taking the lead in their heated rivalry with the Patriots.