Championship Sunday is here in the NFL. It’s time to decide who will compete in the 50th edition of the Super Bowl. Here we take a look at round one, in the AFC, as the New England Patriots travel to Denver to take on the Broncos.
The semifinals of the NFL playoffs are finally upon us, otherwise known as championship weekend. The two top teams in the AFC compete, and the two top teams in the NFC do the same, with the winners heading out to the west coast for Super Bowl number 50. In game one, the New England Patriots take on the Denver Broncos.
This morning, we preview the early game:
When: Sunday, 3:05 PM EST
Where: Sports Authority Field, Denver, CO
Betting Line: Patriots -3.5
Even at home, this is going to be a tough go for the Broncos. Denver is only gave up 85 yards on the ground last week, but the Patriots hardly ever run the football. Against the Chiefs, they ran the ball 14 times. Being tough against the run doesn’t really cramp the style of the Patriots. Last week, the Broncos showed susceptibility to the pass, giving up 311 yards through the air. That will be music to the ears of one Tom Brady.
However, what factors in the Broncos’ favor is Brady’s play in Denver. He has had it tough when performing a mile high above sea level. In two playoff games against the Broncos in Denver, Brady has only thrown two touchdowns versus two interceptions, and completed less than 60% of his passes (59.4%). His record is 1-1, and it hasn’t been easy for the three-time Super Bowl MVP.
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The key for the Broncos’ defense is going to be to get into Brady’s face, but without blitzing. They need to get to Brady with a three to four man rush. Brady gets rid of the ball so quickly when he is blitzed, and with Julian Edelman back, that gets magnified ten fold. According to Pro Football Focus, Brady completed 62% of his passes while being blitzed, and threw 14 touchdowns versus only two interceptions.
In contrast, he only completed 50.5% of his passes while under any kind of pressure. Get to Brady, without blitzing, and the Broncos have a chance.
After a long and storied career, it seems blasphemous to say this, but the Patriots are going to make Peyton Manning beat them. Isn’t that weird? But, it is true.
The Broncos’ strength is running the ball with C.J. Anderson, and having Manning hit key throws off of the running game. Bill Belichick has made a career out of taking away what the opponent does best. The Broncos are going to have trouble running the football, New England will make sure of it.
They will take away the short, quick passes, that Peyton has had to rely on thanks to his weakening arm strength. He will get opportunities to throw deep, the question will be whether or not he can capitalize.
Can Peyton Manning turn back the clock for one more shining moment in the sun? The Broncos’ chances of a return to the Super Bowl will hinge on it.
The Patriots are favorites for a reason. The Broncos will need their A+ game, even at home, to pull off the upset.