The Rivalry

Cam SanClemente, Sports Writer

On Sunday, two of the AFC’s elite teams meet with playoff seeding at the utmost importance. Denver is flying high and seems to be the team to beat in the AFC, while the Patriots are fighting back from a tumultuous start to the season but are on a roll as of late.

Last years regular season meeting was a tale of two halfs with the Patriots falling behind 24-0 and crawling their way back to a 34-31 overtime victory over the favored Broncos. Again the two teams met at Sports Authority Field for the AFC Championship game with a Super Bowl birth on the line. In this encounter the Broncos could do no wrong, completely controlling the game, winning by a final score of 26-16.

During this year’s offseason, Denver and New England made headlines on multiple occasions for a proclaimed “arm’s race”. Both teams seemed to believe the other was what stood between their club and a spot in the Super Bowl, so the battle raged. For a time it was that when one team signed a free agent the other countered with one of their own.  

Here are each teams offseason acquisitions: 

New England                                               Denver 

Darrelle Revis (CB)                                Aqib Talib (CB)

Brandon Browner (CB)                              T.J. Ward (S)

Brandon Lafell (WR)                        Demarcus Ware (DE)

Patrick Chung (S)                         Emmanuel Sanders (WR)

Football is a game of matchups and winning the individual battles.  One matchup to keep your eye on this week will be Darrelle Revis on Demaryius Thomas, two of the most highly regarded players at their respective positions.  Revis has under performed so far this year and I’m looking for him to have a breakout game against the best offense in the league.  Thomas is on a tear hauling in 5 touchdowns the last 4 games including the record-breaking 509th for Peyton Manning. 

Although Demaryius is Mannings best receiver, the Broncos are loaded offensively and could still operate, which is why the second matchup to watch for is Brandon Browner on Julius Thomas.  Julius is a touchdown machine with 21 TD’s the past 2 years and is Peytons go to target when inside the 10 yard line.  Browner is a big, physical cornerback and I’m hoping Belichick will utilize him to cover Julius Thomas to combat his size.

The last matchup is between the Pats offensive line and the Broncos defensive front.  New England has had major problems on the O-line, shuffling guys in positions they have never played and putting rookies on the field before they are ready.  Statistically the O-line is mediocre but with 2 rookies presumably starting their first meaningful game in the NFL they could be exploited.  Denver’s defensive front 7 is dangerous.  With the additions of Demarcus Ware and the return of Von Miller, the Broncos are third in the NFL in sacks with 21 and second in rushing yards allowed giving up under 507 yards in 7 Patriots vs Broncos games.  To counteract this Tom Brady will need to get the ball out quick and the receivers will have to get open just as quick.

Winning this game is a tall task for the Pats but one thing that hasn’t been stated is Tom Brady’s 10-4 record versus Manning.  It is as though throughout Manning’s illustrious career Brady has been his Kryptonite.  Something I personally believe is that Peyton does not show up in big games and moments or when the going gets tough.  (i.e. Last years Super Bowl and last years regular season meeting versus New England)

New England will once again be the underdog as Denver’s Offense and Defense are both statistically better than that of the Pats.  The Pats will have to show up hungry and angry, if they don’t expect a long afternoon for Brady and his men.  This game will be one of the year’s best. I predict the Broncos to lead most of the game but eventually Manning will slip up and Tom will do what Tom always does.

Predicton: 30-27 Patriots