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AFC Championship: Brady vs Manning : Patriots (+4) vs Broncos

When the Broncos headed into halftime during their Week 12 matchup with the New England Patriots, things were looking good. Unfortunately for them, when they came back to play the second half, things would come crashing down. The result would be a 34-31 win for the Patriots, in what was the largest come-from-behind margin that New England has ever overcome. The Broncos will get their chance at revenge on Saturday, as they welcome New England to town with a chance at the Super Bowl on the line.

There is no hiding the fact that this game comes down to the matchup that pits two of the best quarterbacks of our generation, if not history, against one another. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have played each other 13 times. Brady has won 9 while Manning has taken the other three. Not bad for a guy who was drafted 199th in 2000, against a guy who was drafted first overall in 1998. Their game in the AFC Championship on Saturday will be another point at which their paths cross with huge implications on the line. They’ve already met on three separate occasions in the playoffs, Brady winning two-of-three. However, in all three instances the winner would eventually win the Super Bowl, which could certainly be the case again this year.

Brady did miss practice earlier this week due to a slight cold. However, there was no doubt that Bill Belichick said that Brady would be suiting up on Sunday and that he’d be ready to go. With all of the other injuries and missing players that the Patriots have dealt with this season, Brady has proven he is the glue that holds everyone together. But Patriots fans will have to keep their fingers crossed that the illness that caused him to miss practice is as minor as claimed.

As for Manning, he’ll have to deal with the fact that Brady beat him earlier this year, holds the head-to-head advantage, and also owns more Super Bowl rings. Brady also has a better playoff record, sitting at 17-7 to Manning’s 9-11.

If Manning hopes to win this weekend, he is going to have to do it without the help of one of his main targets all season, Julius Thomas. The tight end who has had a breakout year with the help of Manning, will miss Sunday’s game due to a knee injury. That means even more pressure for the receiving core of Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.

Despite the historical advantage that Brady has over Manning, the books have the Broncos as 4-point favorites. A lot of that could have to do with the home field advantage that the Broncos have earned with their 13-3 record.

But one thing is for certain on Sunday. The Broncos haven’t be able to really string together a complete game all season long. They’ve had brilliant quarters, but nothing that has lasted the entire game. And if that is the case this weekend, this one could be decided by less than 4-points, if not going in favor of the underdog Patriots.