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AFC Championship Game-Previews and Predictions

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Jan 12, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) runs after a reception in the first quarter against the San Diego Chargers linebacker Donald Butler (56) during the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Denver Broncos
This season for the Denver Broncos offense has been absolutely unbelievable. Talk about record breaking, this season the Broncos broke the NFL record for most touchdowns (76), total points (606), players with 10 or more touchdowns in a season (4), and passing first downs (293) as Peyton Manning made some records of his own, passing for an NFL record 5,477 yards and 9 games with 4+ touchdowns. To say that the Broncos offense was and still is unstoppable would be one of the biggest understatements of the decade. What can most attributed to the Broncos success has been Peyton Manning along with the amazing talent of his receivers. Receivers such as the speedy Demaryius Thomas, lanky Julius Thomas, quick Wes Welker and sure-handed Eric Decker have been the difference maker here in the Broncos record-breaking season. Manning still would have gone for 5,000 yards had he still been on the Colts, however the pro-bowl receiving corps of the Broncos has a lot to do with the success of Manning. In this playoffs they showed once again why they should be feared as Peyton Manning passed for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 24-17 win over the Chargers last Sunday in Denver. Offensively the Broncos are loaded on the passing side of the ball, but let’s take a look at their interesting running game. With the emergence of Knowshon Moreno as the Broncos primary back (1,038 yards, 10 touchdowns in the regular season) and rookie Montee Ball as the #2 guy, this Broncos running game is often not given as much credit as they should get. Against the Chargers last week, Montee Ball proved to be a difference maker with 10 carries for 52 yards to go along with Moreno’s 23 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown. What people don’t realize is that although Ball is young and relatively inexperienced, he is extremely talented. Look for him to perhaps be a factor as the Broncos use the run to thwart Brady and the Patriots run defense. Week 12 against the Pats, Moreno was able to absolutely torch New England’s struggling rush defense for 224 yards with a mind-boggling average yards per carry of 6.1. Expect the pass to be a major proponent of this game for Denver, but look for Montee Ball and Moreno to be a big part of whether or not it is Manning going for his 2nd Super Bowl, or Brady going for his 4th.

Jan 11, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) celebrates with wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) after a touchdown during the first quarter of the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots
Given where this team was around week 5, things weren’t bright at all. Injuries to wide receivers and the loss of Wes Welker hurt the Patriots in ways we didn’t see coming after last season. However, with a rag tag group of rookies and former 2nd stringers, the Patriots were able to claw their way back into relevance in the AFC. The real MVP for this team and probably in the NFL has been their QB Tom Brady. Considering the lack-luster talent he had to work with, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, Brady has honestly done the seemingly impossible: Make something out of nothing. With 4,343 yards and only 25 touchdowns, Brady and the Patriots may not have been the most dominating team this season, however when the needed a big pass or big play down the field, Brady has been there time and time again, showing exactly why he is one of the best QBs of this generation. And in reality this game will come down to QBs, but we cannot ignore the outstanding performance RB LeGarrette Blount has put on in the past games. Considering that Blount was fighting for a spot on the roster not just 5 months ago in the pre-season, he has definitely come a long way and earned his place as the starter of these New England Patriots. In Blount’s past 3 games he has rushed for an unbelievable 431 yards and 8 touchdowns, including a 166-yard, 4-touchdown performance last week in the Divisional round against the Colts. In this game it is definitely going to be tough for Blount, considering how well the Broncos D stopped Danny Woodhead the San Diego Chargers running game last week. People have been talking about this match-up for a while and say it is a slam dunk for Blount, however I don’t believe he will be able to have a good game. I’ve got this feeling in my chest (probably heart burn from all the nacho flavored Doritos I just finished), that Blount’s reign of dominance stops here. The Broncos rush defense ranked 8th in the league with only 101.6 yards per game given up. Doesn’t mean that the Patriots offense won’t get the job done against the average Broncos defense, it just means that Brady will have to rely more heavily on the talents of his receivers and even perhaps Stevan Ridley in order to get the job done. Good things always happen in threes, but great things never happen in fours.

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Tags: Afc Championship Game AFC Championship Game Preview AFC East AFC West Denver Broncos Indianapolis Colts Manning Vs. Brady New England Patriots Peyton Manning Predictions Preview San Diego Chargers Tom Brady

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