Believe it or not, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will square off for the 15th time this Sunday afternoon in Denver. Brady’s teams have bested Manning straight up in 10 of the first 14 match-ups, but are 7-5-2 against the spread. Brady and Manning squared off earlier this season in one of the more bizarre games in recent memory. Facing a 24-0 deficit in the third quarter, Brady (with a little help from the wind), put on an absolute clinic and led the Patriots to a stunning 34-31 overtime victory in Foxboro. Brady accounted for 344 passing yards and 3 TDs as he led the comeback effort. Wide receiver Julian Edelman accounted for 110 yards and 2 TDs.
Unfortunately for Denver, one of its better cornerbacks, Chris Harris Jr., will not be available to help slow down Brady. Harris tore his ACL in the third quarter against the Chargers and will miss the remainder of the season. Denver held onto a comfortable 17-0 lead before Harris departed and San Diego began to mount a comeback. Expect New England to study Denver’s formations following Harris’ departure and exploit that weakness early and often.
Expect New England to continue leaning on RB LeGarrette Blount. Blount has become the story of the playoffs after ripping off 166 yards and 4 TDs last weekend against the Colts. I fully expect Brady to feed his 250-pound RB early and often to keep Manning and Co. off the field.
Denver opened as a six point favorite on most sportsbooks, but that number has been bet down to 4.5 points. Current Super Bowl odds have Seattle listed as the largest favorite, but Denver is a close second. Temperatures in Denver are expected to be in the mid-40s with no chance of rain. These weather conditions are ideal for Manning’s passing attack and I expect him to put up a big performance. A lot of people are betting on New England and I can understand why. They looked dominant last weekend and they know how beat Peyton Manning led teams. However, Manning needs this game in the worst game possible. Manning detractors are out in full force and a loss on Sunday would give them more ammo. I think Denver gets out to an early, sizable lead and coasts to an easy victory. Watch out for Wes Welker. I fully expect him to have a huge game against his former squad.
Prediction: Denver 38 New England 20