AFC Championship Preview: New England Patriots Searching For Back-To-Back Super Bowls

This may well be the final time Tom Brady and Peyton Manning go head-to-head, as these two great quarterbacks meet in the AFC Championship match this Sunday.

The New England Patriots are aiming to reach their seventh Super Bowl in just 15 seasons, and to win back-to-back Lombardi trophies for the first time in over 10 years.

Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos will be looking to avoid key mistakes this time around, after this was the case in their overtime win over the Pats in Week 12.

Brady and Manning have faced off 16 times (Getty)
Brady and Manning have faced off 16 times (Getty)

The final chapter?

We all know the big storyline in this contest, for the seventeenth time, Brady and Manning will square off, and the Patriots have won 11 of the matchups.

The duel isn’t the same as we once knew it. Brady is still playing some of the best football of his career, but Manning is looking to erase the memory of what has been a disappointing season.

Wherever you look across the line, the game throws up some interesting and intriguing matchups, and this one is too close to call just like the last time these two superstars went against each other.

Julian Edelman in Super Bowl 49 (Getty)
Julian Edelman in Super Bowl 49 (Getty)

Game within the game

Julian Edelman is somewhat the key to the treasure chest for the Patriots. The Broncos must stop him form the very start because when he is operating at his peak, everything seems easier for the Pats’ offense.

His pass blocking ability allows Rob Gronkowski to be available, and Brady found Edelman 10 times last week for 100-yards, even though it was his first game back from a broken foot.

Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson have been the answer to Manning’s touchdown drought this season, the two combined for 1,583-yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season.

Last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the pair combined for 110-yards on 31 carries and New England will have to find a way of confining both of these two to force Manning to throw the football long.

No consistent running-back, no problem

The Patriots are without a constant at running-back and Brady prefers to get the ball away quickly to serve instead of their running game.

However, this may be difficult with the Broncos likely to get pressure on the quarterback this Sunday, as they have an NFL-high 52 sacks on the season.

Brady has been quite something in the red zone this season, with 29 touchdowns and only three interceptions. The question that lodges is, do they really need a consistent running-back when you have Brady at the helm?

New England produced a priceless performance against an in-form Kansas City Chiefs defense last week to get to this stage, running out 27-20 winners.

Injury Report

For the Patriots, a number of key players are listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report, these include Danny Amendola (knee), Don’t’a Hightower (knee) and Rob Ninkovich (shin).

Brady (ankle) appeared to be limping out of his press conference last Sunday, but he has been listed as probable, just like Patrick Chung (foot) and Brandon LaFell (foot).

The Broncos haven’t any players out or questionable, but Owen Daniels (knee), Manning (foot), Brandon Marshall (ankle), Brock Osweiler (knee) and DeMarcus Ware (knee) are all listed as probable for the big game.