Brady vs. Manning: The End of an Era: AFC Championship (Patriots at Broncos) Preview

This is the 17th time Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will face off, possibly the last.  Between the Colts and the Broncos, Manning knows are team too well.  He knows Brady, he knows Belichick, so we have to play are game, but run a couple plays that we don’t normally do.  The New England Patriots take on the Denver Broncos at Mile High.  In November, we went to Denver and they came back to win 30-24, but it was Brock Osweiler under center last time, Manning was out with plantar fasciitis.

NFL Roundtable: The Best Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning Game
Tom Brady face off for the 17th time in the AFC Championship but this might be the last if Manning retires.

My Prediction: Patriots, 27, Broncos, 23

So, who has the advantage in this game?  You saw in Week 12, it will be a close game, tough match-up and very physical game.  So, lets break it down.  Injuries had way more of an impact in Week 12 than now, Edelman was out, DeMarcus Ware was out, Gronk left, Hightower, Collins and Amendola sat too.  Now, we have a team at decent health, so does Denver.

Denver has a dominant front seven: Sylvester Williams, Malik Jackson, Derek Wolfe, DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, Brandon Marshall, Danny Trevathan and Shane Ray.  That’s EIGHT GUYS, you can only start 7!!  Their secondary also includes star corners Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. plus T.J. Ward and Bradley Roby.  Steven Jackson, Brandon Bolden and James White better be ready to bull through the defense and find space between the stars, and I trust that they can.  I also think that the secondary isn’t strong enough to guard Gronk, Edelman, Amendola, Chandler, LaFell and Keshawn Martin.  I think 2 of these 8 will score: Jackson, Bolden, Edelman, LaFell, Amendola, Gronk, Chandler.  My original prediction was Gronk and Chandler but now I’m thinking maybe Jackson, Bolden or a receiver will score.

Now Denver’s offense.  The Broncos even without Peyton Manning would have an overpowered offense.  C.J. Anderson usually really shows up this time of year, while Ronnie Hillman continues to do his thing.  Plus the receiving game didn’t just use DeMaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders last time.  They used Vernon Davis, Owen Daniels, Cody Latimer and Andre Caldwell, who had a TD, too.  But the young Patriots secondary will have to try and stop Denver’s pass, they should be able to double cover Thomas, and contain Sanders and Daniels on one man coverage.  Vernon Davis, Virgil Green and those sleep receivers, may let loose.  They also need to do a better job containing the running game.  But in the end, despite facing to more overpowered defense, and being the road team, I think the Pats have the edge with their offense’s match-up and will win by a nose.

 

Keys To The Game

Patriots

  1. Even against a ferocious front seven, the Patriots run game needs to keep it up.  Tom Brady might not have the protection he needs, and he’ll have to depend on his backfield. They have the individual players to do it, the questions are: Do they work together enough to?,  Is the match-up against the defense in their favor?
  2. The Broncos run game is revamped too with CJ Anderson at his best.  The Patriots have struggled to stop the run all year.  This game, they need to excel at it.
  3. The young Patriots secondary needs to contain a large number of Broncos receivers that make up its offense’s core.  Last time, sleep receiver Andre Caldwell caught the TD that brought the game to overtime, where CJ Anderson had a long run for a touchdown.

Broncos

  1. The Patriots have just as good of receivers when healthy.  The Broncos secondary isn’t quite as good as their pass rush, and they might have trouble keeping the receivers from doing much.  Between Edelman, LaFell, Amendola, Keshawn Martin, Gronk and Chandler, there’s plenty of guys to cover.
  2. CJ Anderson needs to pick up the pace.  Between some big games, he’s still been somewhat consistent unlike late last year, even when Manning’s super bowl hopes got crushed in the Divisional Round last year Anderson made an impact.
  3. The Broncos need to use their receiving depth to their advantage.  Unleash all their sleep receivers and play like the Pats haven’t seen them play yet.

Injury Report

New England Patriots (13-4)

 

Out

​G Tre’ Jackson – Knee (LP)
OL LaAdrian Waddle – Shoulder (LP)

 

Doubtful

NONE

 

Questionable

WR Danny Amendola – Knee (LP)
TE Scott Chandler – Knee (LP)
LB Jamie Collins – Back (LP)
DB Nate Ebner – Hand (LP)
WR Julian Edelman – Foot (LP)
LB Darius Fleming – Back/Shin (LP)
LB Jonathan Freeny – Hand (LP)
TE Rob Gronkowski – Knee/Back (LP)
LB Dont’a Hightower – Knee (LP)
DE Chandler Jones – Abdomen/Toe (LP)
DE Rob Ninkovich – Shin (LP)
WR Matthew Slater – Shin (LP)
C Bryan Stork – Ankle (LP)
OT Sebastian Vollmer – Ankle (LP)

 

Probable

QB Tom Brady – Ankle (FP)
S Patrick Chung – Foot (FP)
OL Josh Kline – Shoulder (FP)
WR Brandon LaFell – Foot (FP)
S Devin McCourty – Ankle (FP)

 

Denver Broncos (13-4)

 

Out

NONE

 

Doubtful

NONE

 

Questionable 

NONE

 

Probable
S Josh Bush – Shoulder
TE Owen Daniels – Knees
ILB Todd Davis – Shoulder
G Max Garcia – Groin
CB Chris Harris Jr. – Shoulder
QB Peyton Manning – Foot
ILB Brandon Marshall – Ankle
QB Brock Osweiler – Knee
S Darian Steward – Hamstring
S T.J. Ward – Ankle
OLB DeMarcus Ware – Knee
CB Bradley Roby – Quadricep

Pats Roster: Fix-Up

Here is a look at my final roster projection

Final Roster

QB-3

Tom Brady

Jimmy Garroppollo

Ryan Lindley

 

RB-5

LeGarrette Blount

Brandon Bolden

Travaris Cadet

Jonas Gray

James White

 

Cuts

Tyler Gaffney

Dion Lewis

 

WR-7

Danny Amendola

Josh Boyce

Aaron Dobson

Julian Edelman

Brandon LaFell

Matthew Slater

Reggie Wayne

 

IR

Brian Tyms

Brandon Gibson

 

Cuts

Greg Orton

Jalen Saunders

Chris Harper

Jonathan Krause

 

TE-6

Scott Chandler

Asante Cleveland

AJ Derby

Rob Gronkowski

Michael Hoomanawanuui

Michael Williams

 

OL-8

Marcus Cannon

Nate Solder

Sebastian Vollmer

Cameron Fleming

Josh Kline

Ryan Wendell

Bryan Stork

Tre’ Jackson

 

Cuts

David Andrews

Kevin Hughes

Shaq Mason

 

DL-10

Alan Branch

Malcom Brown

Dominique Easley

Geneo Grissom

Chandler Jones

Chris Jones

Rob Ninkovich

Jabaal Sheard

Sealver Siliga

Joe Vellano

 

Cuts

Zach Moore

Trey Flowers

 

LB-5

Jamie Collins

Xzavier Dickson

Darius Fleming

Dont’ A Hightower

Jerod Mayo

 

Cuts

Dane Fletcher

Jonathan Freeny

Rufus Johnson

Eric Martin

Chris White

 

CB-5

Tarrell Brown

Malcolm Butler

Nate Ebner

Logan Ryan

Daxton Swanson

 

IR

Darryl Roberts

 

Cuts

Justin Coleman

Brandon King

Robert McClain

 

S-5

Patrick Chung

Duron Harmon

Devin McCourty

Jordan Richards

Tavon Wilson

 

Cuts

Justin Green

 

ST

Stephen Gostkowski

Ryan Allen

Joe Cardona

 

Practice

Gaffney

Lewis

Orton

Harper

Flowers

Moore

White

Krause

 

As you can see, there are many fantasies on this roster, but for a reason.  Ryan Lindley’s on the roster for a reason, even with Brady back for the first four.  They need a backup, and if Garroppollo is too young and struggles, Lindley, who did a decent job as the Cardinals emergency option, steps in.

That Jonas Gray cut, even with the fact that they wouldn’t pay for him, he had an outbreak before LeGarrette Blount out.  With Blount suspended, and Gray cut, who works with Cadet?  Bolden?  White?  Lewis?  Apparently.  And even with a dominant preseason, Dion Lewis did not deserve a bubble spot over Gray, or even Cadet.  Cadet had a nice 2014 year with Drew Brees, not even as good as Tom Brady.

I also don’t understand Josh Boyce’s cut.  There was a point less than two years ago when Boyce was having breakout weeks.  Chris Harper, apparently, earned the bubble spot over him.  I understand, Harper had a nice preseason, but there’s no room for him.  They have Edelman, LaFell, Amendola and Dobson, even Slater ahead.  Also, why did Wayne come and go so fast?  He was going to be an important addition, especially if the injured Brandon LaFell was gonna miss the opener.  Wayne just was probably too old.  The Pats are going young.  I liked the idea of racking up as many vets as you can and going for another title, especially with Brady’s suspension off.

They also cut some good tight end depth in Asante Cleveland and AJ Derby.  Derby could sign with another team and be a surprise rookie the Pats ditched.  Cleveland was definitely on the bubble, but they traded what might have been their starting left guard for him.  I thought Mike Williams was closer to a cut though.  Apparently, I was wrong.

It also surprised me that they cut JOE VELLANO.  He had such a good super bowl performance, and he was going to replace Vince Wilfork.  Now it’s up to Dominique Easley and Malcom Brown, first round picks from 2014 and 2015.  Sealver Siliga might contribute, too, but he has to cover for Chris Jones, who’s hurt for now.  Geneo Grissom, the 5th round pick is another option.

At corner, about 2 weeks ago I would say, “Butler and Ryan will start.”  But late in the preseason, Tarrell Brown has shined.  He could not just make the roster, but start alongside Butler.  Ryan is not strong enough to start with Brown as an alternate, he can backup.  Another additon they kept was Eagles free agent Bradley Fletcher, joining Brown and Butler and maybe surpass Ryan.

 

Thursday Starters

 

Moving forward, here’s my Thursday projected lineup.

 

Offense

Tom Brady QB

Travaris Cadet RB

Julian Edelman WR

Danny Amendola WR

Rob Gronkowski TE

Scott Chandler TE

Nate Solder LT

Cameron Fleming LG

Bryan Stork C

Ryan Wendell RG

Sebastian Vollmer RT

 

Defense

Chandler Jones DE

Dominique Easley DT

Sealver Siliga DT

Rob Ninkovich DE

Jerod Mayo OLB

Jamie Collins MLB

Dont’ A Hightower OLB

Malcolm Butler CB

Devin McCourty SS

Patrick Chung FS

Tarrell Brown CB

Special Teams

Stephen Gostkowski K

Ryan Allen P

Joe Cardona LS