For the 15th time in their careers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will meet each other in an NFL game. This matchup, though, is as big as any of the other 14.
Manning and the Denver Broncos will host Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday in the 2014 AFC Championship Game. The winner will go on to play either the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVIII.
"Tom Brady has been an outstanding quarterback for such a long time but the game next week is the Broncos versus the Patriots," Manning said after staving off the San Diego Chargers. "I know there's going to be some individual matchups that get headlines but it will be a battle between good teams. Teams that have been through a lot."
In their all-time meetings, Brady has the upper hand. In 12 games against Manning with the Indianapolis Colts, and two with the Broncos, the Patriots quarterback is 10-4 against his rival. Brady has won two out of three playoff matchups, though Manning won the most recent one in 2007.
In the 2013 regular season, the Broncos and Patriots met on "Sunday Night Football" in Week 12. On the road, Denver entered the game as favorites, and played like such in the first half, jumping out to a 24-0 lead. However, the Broncos offense stalled in the second half, and the Patriots stormed back to win 34-31 in overtime.
The loss saw Manning put up his worst numbers of the year. He threw for just 150 yards and registered a season-low 70.4 passer rating. The Broncos running game actually carried the offense. Knowshon Moreno went for 224 yards on 37 carries. Brady was unstoppable in the second half. All total, he passed for 344 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Brady’s dominance of Manning, though, isn’t expected to continue on Sunday. The Broncos have the best record in the NFL, and are favored to move on to the Super Bowl. They barely got by the Chargers in the divisional round, winning 24-17 and almost blowing a 17-point fourth-quarter lead.
The Patriots didn’t have much trouble with the Indianapolis Colts, defeating them by 21 points. However, they won at home, where they’ve been much better this season. New England is 9-0 at Gillette Stadium, but just 4-4 away from their fans.
Prediction: Brady has had Manning’s number for much of the two quarterbacks’ careers. However, this Patriots teams isn’t like the one of past years. New England does not have a dominant defense, and it will be difficult for them to hold Manning to under 200 passing yards one more time. The Broncos have an explosive offense, and the Patriots will have trouble keeping up in Denver. The loss of Chris Harris will hurt Denver’s defense, but this time, Manning has the better overall team,
Predicted Score: Denver 31, New England 24