The Denver Broncos team that beat the New England Patriots earlier this season is not the same team that will play in the AFC Championship Game…
The team that beat the New England Patriots in overtime on a snowy Sunday night in Denver is not the same team that will host the AFC Championship game on Sunday.
And that’s not a bad thing.
The talk has all been about how healthy the Patriots are going to be this time around, and how much of a difference that makes. I don’t know that it will make any more or less of a difference than the health of the Denver Broncos this time around.
Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware watched the last Broncos-Patriots bout from the training room. Sylvester Williams and T.J. Ward were both carted off the field in the first quarter…at the same time…
There will be a vast number of differences in this game on both sidelines, both sides of the football, but the most obvious difference is going to be the difference between no. 17 and 18 taking snaps offensively for the Broncos. Peyton Manning didn’t play in the last Broncos vs. Brady duel, but Brock Osweiler found a way to erase a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to help the Broncos win the game in overtime.
The Patriots are not underestimating the Broncos, and the Broncos are certainly not underestimating the Patriots. In order to beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, you have to be aggressive but not stupid. You have to find a way to make tackles on Tom Brady’s quick passes so you don’t let his receivers run wild after the catch.
You have to out-scheme the great schemer, no matter what your advantage, home-field or otherwise.
The big talk this time around has been not only the difference of injured players (Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola) returning, but for the fact that apparently the Broncos are not going to be able to play their signature man coverage against the style of offense the Patriots play.
That may be the case, but are the Broncos not athletic enough to make tackles after the catch? Are they not one of the most well-coached defenses in the NFL?
Do they not have the most sacks in the NFL this season?
The AFC Championship game would never bring a weak opponent (unless we’re talking about the Colts last year), so the Broncos should never expect anything less than the best they could possibly get from the New England Patriots. But like the last time these two teams played, and the 2013 AFC Championship game, and really any time Brady/Belichick have come to Denver, it’s tough to beat the Broncos.
Especially when they are at full strength defensively.
I think David Bruton Jr. is a key piece that won’t be around this time, but the Broncos have weapons all over the place, and we all know from experience in 2013 that great defense wins championships. The top defense with home field advantage and Peyton Manning at QB? I like those odds…
It’s hard to wrap your mind around this, but Manning can end his career with a winning record against Brady in the playoffs, despite the one-sided rivalry in the regular season favoring the Patriots QB. He won’t be able to match or exceed the number of rings Brady has, but he can ride off into the sunset with one, the second of his NFL career.
And wouldn’t it be crazy to see Manning do it as a complimentary piece rather than the focal point of a football team?
The Broncos have the ability to make that happen because of their rare health at this point in the season. Everyone is participating in full at practice, and the way this defense has played, the insertion of some of the players that didn’t play last time the Broncos took on the Patriots has got to feel pretty great for Wade Phillips.
I can’t wait to see how this team responds to the adversity that lies ahead.