It’s a showdown made in heaven. If the drama and excitement of classic NFL matchups is what you crave, Brady-Manning is the game to watch. When the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos battle at Sports Authority Field, the results will be epic. The Patriots are healthy and looking like the team to beat. The Broncos are riding high on defense. But will they be able to stop the Brady train?
When the Patriots invade Mile High Stadium for the AFC Championship game, the Brady-Manning battle will be reborn. The fifth postseason matchup between the two will set a record for the most times two quarterbacks have squared off in a playoff game. Their four showdowns are tied with three other pairs: Terry Bradshaw and Ken Stabler, Steve Young and Brett Favre, and Tom Brady and Joe Flacco.
After 15 years in the NFL, Brady is still putting up incredible stats. For the first time in this fierce rivalry, the odds will be in Brady’s favor. Brady is playing at a level consistent with that of his championship years. Manning hasn’t revealed his plans for 2016, but the consensus is that he’ll retire. With all the interceptions and nagging injuries, this may be the year he hangs it up. The last game should be a battle for the right to play in Super Bowl 50.
According to the New York Daily News, this will be the fourth time the two quarterbacks have met in the AFC title game. After Brady won the first two, including the 2003 AFC Championship Game, Manning has won the last two. Both were in the conference championship game, when he was with the Colts in 2006 and Broncos in 2013.
After Brady was accused of cheating on the field and Manning was rumored to be cheating off the field, the talk has faded. Now, the attention is focused squarely on the two most talked about quarterbacks in the history of the game.
As good as Brady has looked, Manning has been just as bad. Before he was sidelined with the injuries, Manning finished with ugly numbers. He brought the Broncos back from the brink of elimination, with a clutch winning drive over the Pittsburgh Steelers. But during the 13-play march, he attempted only three passes, completing two.
Against the Kansas City Chiefs, Brady was playing angry-at-the-world. With Julian Edelman back in the lineup, and Rob Gronkowski snagging touchdowns, the Brady train was unstoppable. Per ESPN stats, he finished the day with 302 yards and a 103.5 passer rating. Brady was back to MVP form.
“It’s pretty special to get back to another AFC championship game,” said Brady, who has played for the conference title 10 times in his career. “It’s pretty cool. It’s hard to do, man. You’ve got to grind throughout the entire year. There’s only four teams playing next week and we’re one of them. That game means a lot.”
Brady and the Patriots are trying to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since they did it 11 years ago.
The Patriots are playing at a level that can get them to the big dance. But they’ll be going against the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL. The Broncos bent against the Steelers but eventually settled in. Brady will have a hard time, fighting the thin air of Mile High and the stingy Denver defense.
If he plays with the intensity of the Divisional Round game, Brady should have no problems. The biggest incentive should be that fifth Super Bowl ring. That would break the tie with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana. This could also be Tom Brady’s last time facing Manning. The Brady train should have no problems with motivation.
[Feature Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images]