The New England Patriots and Denver Broncos will meet Sunday for the AFC championship in a game that can’t. get. here. fast. enough.

It marks the fifth time quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will square off on the gridiron in the playoffs.

Here’s how the staff sees the game shaking out ….

BILL STEWART

Mile High has been a house of horrors for the Patriots over the years. The Pats have never won a playoff game in Denver and Brady is just 2-6 as a starter there.

Let’s face it, the joint is just bad juju for Brady or any other Patriots player, past or present.

Bad things happen there.

Go back to November, when the perfect Pats — 10-0 at the time — rolled into Denver (well, OK, limped maybe) and led 21-7 in the fourth quarter. Game over? Hardly. The Broncos rallied and pulled out a 30-24 victory when C.J. Anderson rushed for a 48-yard touchdown just a few minutes into overtime.

The last times these two teams met in the playoffs came in the 2013 AFC championship, which the host Broncos won 26-16. Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns.

The Broncos won’t need a similar performance from Manning on Sunday to beat the Patriots. With a tough ground game and a dominant defense, Denver justs need Manning to stay out of the way.

And that he will.

Prediction: Broncos 26, Patriots 17

RANDY WHITEHOUSE

The Patriots don’t have to defend about one-third of the field with Peyton Manning at quarterback, so here is my plea to their defense: Don’t hit him. If you have a sack, cradle him in your arms as if he were an industrial sized package of toilet paper. If he gives himself up like he did last week against Pittsburgh gently tap him on the butt (don’t get anywhere near his helmet, whatever you do), then offer a hand to help him up. Keep Manning healthy and slow down the running game and you’re Santa Clara-bound.

Prediction: Patriots 23, Broncos 16

TRAVIS LAZARCZYK

Don’t tell me that the Patriots are 0-3 in the playoffs in Denver. Nobody cares that Tony Eason fell on his face in Mile High Stadium almost 30 years ago.

The other two times the Patriots lost in Denver in the playoffs, they were the obvious underdog. This time, with a full lineup of healthy offensive weapons, New England should be able to outscore a Denver offense led by a Peyton Manning on his last legs.

Prediction: Patriots 30, Broncos 20.

EVAN CRAWLEY

After a week of listening to sports talk radio, the general consensus I’ve gathered amongst New Englanders is that Sunday’s game is going to go one of two ways:

“Theah is no freaking way Tohm Brady loses to Peyton Manning on Sunday. Brady is going to throw foah like eight touchdowns and Manning can’t throw moah than like five yahds down field. Pats ah gonna pick him off five times and win 86-3.”

OR…

“Rogah Gahdell and the NFL ah gonna tell the officials to hammer the Pats because that’s the only way theah gonna lose on Sunday. Pats are gonna get like 200 yahds in penalties and lose a close one 19-17.”

The opinions from every caller aside, I think this one is actually going to be pretty close throughout but ultimately too many field goals cost the Broncos. Maybe something like 14-9 Patriots at the half and New England opens up a two-score lead in the second half before Denver makes it interesting late.

For all the ballyhoo about Manning being washed up, Denver’s defense is legit. The Broncos only gave up more than 30 points once this season and I would be surprised in the Patriots can get into the 30s on Sunday.

That being said, New England is going to score. Denver has a very strong group of linebackers but my feeling is the Patriots have too many options for DC Wade Phillips to handle. They’re going to need to be involved in covering Gronkowski, monitoring Edelman on crossing routes when in zone coverage, pressuring Brady and covering James White out of the backfield. Sounds to me like that will be too much for Denver too handle. Look for a big game from White.

Prediction: New England 24, Denver 19


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.