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

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Gronk and Edelman Rebound, Patriots Trump Chiefs

It has been a roller coaster ride, this week, this season, and this 2015 for the Patriots.  From DeflateGate, to the Super Bowl.  From the suspension to the banners revealing.  From a crazy week to an awesome win in the Divisional Round.  The Pats outscored the Chiefs 27-20.  The game broke many records.  Gronk now leads all tight ends in playoff touchdowns, and all Pats players in playoff receptions.  He has never been on a team that has not advanced to the AFC Championship.  It’s also Tom Brady’s 30th playoff game, the most by any NFL player in history!!  This is also only the 2nd time a team has gone to 5 straight conference championships, tying the record set by a 1970’s Pittsburgh Steelers squad.

 

Now let’s talk about the exciting ending first.  The Pats led 27-13 after 2 30-40 yard field goals by Stephen Gostkowski.  The Chiefs had difficulty managing the clock.  They blew about 5 minutes.  They were hesitating, taking their time on play after play.  They had blown it with 1 minute to goal on 3rd and goal when there was a flag.  Pass interference on the Pats.  It reset to 1st and goal.  On 2nd down, they scored.  It was now 27-20.  The Pats just needed one first down.  2nd and 12.  Brady threw.  The ball bounces of a defender’s hip.  Tamba Hali misses it and Edelman makes the first down catch!!!!  All TB12 had to do was take a knee 3 times and it was over!  Well, how did we get there.  It all started opening drive.

It was 3rd down.  Brady had struggled on 3rd down conversions ever since Edelman got hurt.  But he was back.  He proved it.  Brady threw to his favorite receiver, and Edelman, he caught it, for a first down!  Next play went to Edelman for 13 yards again!!!!  Then 16 yards to Amendola the very next play!!!   They were doing hurry-up offense, just pass after pass after pass to Brady’s best slot receivers.  Healthy and dominant as they could be.   Then he got to third down again, and got to Gronk for 32 yards!!!   He jumped over defenders and broke tackles, but he got there.  Two plays later, touchdown Gronk!!!  That was all on the 1st drive.  5 minutes, 11 plays, 80 yards and a touchdown!!!!

The following drive ate up 8 minutes of clock, and ended with a 34 yard field goal.  7-3 Pats.  It ended the 1st quarter at that score.  The 2nd quarter started with 3 short drives, ending in punts.  After a quick first down to Edelman, then a 5 yard penalty.  Brady threw an amazing pass, Edelman bobbled it, but lost it!!!  But Keshawn Martin was wide open right in front of him and he caught it!!!!  A 42 yard pass!!!  The offense was booming!!!  They slowly got through to the red zone from the 50, and it was first and goal.  Tom Brady ran it in for 10 yards and thought it was a touchdown but it was called out of bounds at the 1!!!  Belichick challenged, but lost as the call stood.  No worries, he had a QB sneak up the middle for a TD!!!  14-3. The following drive was a field goal again.  14-6 Pats.  The pattern was, touchdown Pats, and the next drive, the Chiefs would score a field goal.  “If they keep scoring touchdowns, and the Chiefs keep scoring field goals, you know who will win”, I said to my dad right then.

“I can live with that”, he said.  The half ended soon after.  The Chiefs got the ball, they had won the toss and deferred.  They were marching down the field, but on 2nd and 8, Knile Davis fumbled and Dont’ a  Hightower got it!!!  The offense did its thing.  Gronk for 18 yards.  Edelman runs for as many yards as his own jersey number!!!  14 yard pass to Edelman!  10 yards to James White.  Then Gronk scrambled for his second TD of the night, this time for 16 yards, double the yards of #1.  That’s when he broke the record.  He didn’t spike it, he was so happy, he just danced.  But next drive, things changed.

The Chiefs went to Jason Avant for 26 yards!!!  This is a former Eagles second-string who is now and old and washed up Chiefs sleep receiver.  He had 2 receptions for 69 yards.  Then 13 yards to Kelce.  They were slowly marching down the field, Alex Smith doing his usual thing of lots of short plays for big total yardage.  He went for it to Chris Conley, but was incomplete.  But after a 5 yard penalty on the Pats, they easily went to Albert Wilson for a touchdown.  They had broke the pattern.  It was now 21-13 Pats.  Next drive though, James White caught a 29 yard pass.  Then he went to Edelman for 14.

The quarter ended, and they lost their momentum but managed a 40 yard field goal, a solid one.  24-13.  After a quick Chandler Jones sack, the Pats got the ball back at like the 30.  On 4th down, Duron Harmon’s so-called interception was called back for an incomplete pass and turnover on downs, but thankfully it saved us 30 yards.  Keshawn Martin got a 15 yarder, but they had to settle for a 32 yard field goal.  27-13.  We led by two touchdowns.  Then the Chiefs scored their TD after horrible clock management, and Brady finished the game.

Tomorrow the Broncos and Steelers play.  The winner plays us.  What do you think.  Will we host a banged up Steelers team or go to Denver against the dominant Broncos, where we lost in Week 12?  Comment what you think.  Whoever we play, “We’re on to the AFC Championship.”

Star Of The Game: Rob Gronkowski

Gronkowski scoring his 2nd TD in a nice win over the Chiefs.

Of course Gronk earned this.  Two touchdowns, eight total in the playoffs any year, most by a tight end in playoff history.  Also, Gronk leads the Pats in playoff receptions ever.  Gronk had several deep passes, which he is not known for and despite back trouble and knee troubled, he also caused Chiefs trouble.  He also had some good blocks to help Edelman star in his return.  He led the Pats to revenge for an ugly game.

Revenge: Patriots-Chiefs Preview

Week 4, 2 2014.  The Chiefs blow out the Patriots, 41-14, dominating the ball.  The Patriots fell to 2-2, and the Chiefs rose to it.  That is what happened the last time these two teams played.  This time around, our roster is younger and better and the Chiefs’ is more banged up.  The weather will be colder, which is good for the Pats, and the game is at Gillette.

Image result for chiefs at patriots

Also, Bill Belichick had the backups mimic the Chiefs’ stars play style.  Plus, Belichick showed the tape of 2014 to the current players and told them what they need to do differently that can really help.  The environment is also different.  It was a Monday Night Football game early in the regular season.  This is a 4:30 playoff game on a Saturday.   The Patriots have done plenty to prepare.  Plus, none of the coaches have interviewed for jobs for us, put Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson interviewed for and got the job as the Philadelphia Eagles head coach.

Now here are the keys during the game to the Patriots winning.

  1. The Patriots need to do better on third down.  The return of Julian Edelman will really help with that, but he is still hurt, they have to be careful and have other guys ready to make third down conversions.
  2. The offensive line needs to do a better job protecting Tom Brady from the great Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.  Despite LaAdrian Waddle and Tre’ Jackson being out, Sea Bass’ return will really help with that
  3. The run needs to continue to make an impact.  Weren’t you jumping for joy when Steven Jackson scored his first Patriots touchdown 2 weeks ago?
  4. The defense needs to contain the Chiefs offense.  Maclin, Albert Wilson and Travis Kelce will all be playing, other dangerous names are running backs Charcandrick West and Knile Davis, so the Chiefs offense is at a high point.  But they need to contain them, no matter who’s playing.

My pick is that the Patriots win 30-23.  I’m a little worried about players re-njuring themselves or the offense continuing to struggle regardless of Edelman’s return, but I think the o-line and defense have enough guys active to contain the Chiefs.  Here’s the projected starting o-line today

LT: Sebastian Vollmer

LG: Shaq Mason or Bryan Stork

C: Bryan Stork or David Andrews

RG: Josh Kline

RT: Marcus Cannon

 

Not bad, but still not ideal.

 

Surprise Stars: My predicted stars of the game are Steven Jackson,Brandon Bolden, James White, Julian Edelman, Keshawn Martin, Rob Ninkovich, Jamie Collins and Malcolm Butler.  Butler has top 5 league CB potential, Collins and Nink could continue what they did against the Jets, Keshawn Martin and Edelman are primed to breakout as they lead the team in 3rd down conversions, and Steven Jackson is ready for an encore of both last week and previous years after being team-less most of this season.  Bolden and White should have good runs too.

Inactives

 

Chiefs

Marcus Cooper CB Inactive  Decent Corner
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif OG Inactive  —
David King DE Inactive  —
Mitch Morse C Inactive  Good Center
Aaron Murray QB Inactive  Need QB Depth
Rakeem Nunez-Roches DT Inactive  —
Ramik Wilson ILB Inactive  Decent Pass Rusher

Patriots

Jon Bostic OLB Inactive
 Need The Extra LBs
Geneo Grissom OLB Inactive  Need The Extra LBs
Chris Harper WR Inactive  —
Tre Jackson OG Inactive Made Impact on Line
Ishmaa’ily Kitchen NT Inactive  —
LaAdrian Waddle T Inactive Made Impact on Line
Tavon Wilson SS Inactive  Helped Secondary

 

Pats Rout Cowboys, Remain Undefeated

The Patriots won one of the three toughest games this season.  But they didn’t just win.  They routed the Cowboys, beating them up, 30 to 6.  Early on, the Pats offense looked horrible, and Dallas was in position to win if they kept it up.  Tom Brady got sacked by players who never got let off their four game suspensions, Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain.  But Dont’ A Hightower fought fire with fire.  He brought down Weeden in the next drive.  But Hardy, and another guy got Brady for two more sacks.  Tom Brady had been sacked three times and it was only the first quarter.  Then, more bad news came when Hightower went down with a rib injury.

Stephen Gostkowski made up for the mess with a 49 yard field goal.  However, Dan Bailey, the Cowboys kicker, beat that to tie it when he kicked a 51 yarder.  It was a very quiet game, nobody was scoring.  It was slow going.  The first quarter still hadn’t even ended.  Tom Brady got the momentum going in a second quarter drive, with some long plays followed by a 1 yard touchdown run.  Brady hadn’t even rushed it in any circumstance since December of 2012.  Gostkowski kicked on last 57 yard field goal to beat Bailey before halftime.  Before it was a 21 yard pass to Edelman.  13-3 Patriots at halftime.

Gronk had been quiet the whole first half, but he caught a 33 yard pass to begin the second half.  He followed with another long one.  The Pats were marching down the field, and they eventually made it to 1st and goal, when Dion Lewis squeezed threw the tough Cowboys defense for a clutch TD.  The rest of the 3rd was more slow going nothing-ness. Dan Bailey cheered at least Cowboys fans up when he kicked a field goal.  It was 20-6.  The Pats were dominating and there was still a quarter remaining.

The amazing happened when the Pats got the ball to begin the 4th.  Julian Edelman went 59 yards with a pass for an amazing touchdown.  Edelman has become such a great player.  Good thing we got rid of Wes Welker and not him.  The Cowboys were in a good position to score three drives later, but Jason Witten fumbled and Pats linebacker Jonathan Freeny recovered it!!!  The Pats went 3 and out, and went for it on fourth down, failing to make it.  Dallas was slowly moving down the field on the next drive, and it looked like it would be long, but they would eventually score.  I was wrong.  Logan Ryan suddenly intercepted Brandon Weeden!!!  He’s in a bigger role with Tarrel Brown limited and Bradley Fletcher injured and  gone.  The Pats kicked a last-minute field goal to lock in the 30-6 win.  The Pats are 4-0, but must surpass also undefeated Denver and Cincinnati to snag the home field advantage.

NFL Week 3 Picks

The first two weeks have been full of upsets, and here are some locks, upsets and other scores to watch for in Week 3.

Lock Of The Week
Patriots, 37, Jaguars, 14

Tom Brady and the Patriots should have a dominant game against the Jags.  On offense, they Blount Force Trauma should get more touches after a quiet week 2 return.  I’d expect a TD from him.  The only road blocks are star linebacker Paul Posluszny and rookie defensive lineman Michael Bennett.  He can work around that.  I also expect a lot of passing touchdowns.  Julian Edelman doesn’t have a starting corner to watch him, so either safety James Sample or safety Jonathan Cyprien is left to guard him.  With Edelman and Gronk under that pressure, expect sleepers Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Scott Chandler to show up, about a touchdown each.  The Patriots can look forward to a relatively easy match.

Tom Brady will stun the Jaguars defense with consistent scoring.
Tom Brady will stun the Jaguars defense with consistent scoring.

On D, they should be all set as well.  Running backs TJ Yeldon and Denard Robinson are going nowhere when the defense has Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones and Jerod Mayo to cover.  Last year they also had the added pressure of Vince Wilfork and Akeem Ayers, but Mayo was hurt.  I wouldn’t expect it to be much worse, especially if you put Jamie Collins and Don’t A Hightower in too.  And Marcedes Lewis, who has starred to start the year, will be guarded by Devin McCourty.  And Allen Robinson will have Malcolm Butler on him.

Lock Notables
Colts over Titans, Seahawks over Bears, Texans over Buccaneers, Giants over Redskins

Upset Of The Week
Lions, 24, Broncos, 20

This might sound silly to you, but it’s not really that surprising.  Peyton Manning is getting older, and at the same time, Matthew Stafford is on the uprise.  Joique Bell and Ameer Abdullah will get touches, but will get DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller as guards.  It would be easier to throw the rock.  Not just to Megatron, who will have Aqib Talib by his side, but should break through once Talib wears down, but Golden Tate.  Tate, the former Seahawk, doesn’t have an amazing second string corner to guard him.  Tate should see action, along with tight ends Eric Ebron, thenewly signed Tim Wright and possibly Brandon Pettigrew if he’s healthy.

While on the Lions D, it’s a better fit for the Broncos offense.  DeMaryius Thomas will have Stephen Tulloch on him like white on snow.  Emmanuel Sanders and Owen Daniels may get TDs, but the overall options are limited in Denver.  I think Sanders’ season will be a low point in his career, and Daniels isn’t quite a perfect fit in the Denver style offense.  Expect an early season loss today out of Denver.  What about CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman.  Ngata and DeAndre Levy should be enough to hold them up.  So, the Lions could have a huge win vs Denver today.

The Broncos defense will be in for a surprise when Matthew Stafford throws fire.
The Broncos defense will be in for a surprise when Matthew Stafford throws fire.

Upset Notables
Rams over Steelers, Cowboys over Falcons

Other Scores
Jets, 37, Eagles, 30
Dolphins, 17, Bills, 14
Ravens, 27, Bengals, 23
Rams, 17, Steelers, 14
Browns, 14, Raiders, 9
Colts, 30, Titans, 24
Texans, 30, Buccaneers, 17
Packers, 33, Chiefs, 31
Chargers, 28, Vikings, 23
Cowboys, 27, Falcons, 10
Giants, 28, Redskins, 7
Seahawks, 33, Bears, 16
Panthers, 41, Saints, 21
Cardinals, 31, 49ers, 30

Team Of The Week
1. This team’s quarterback got severely injured last season.
2. This team has been in last in their division for the last couple years.
3. In 2013, this team’s division was the toughest.
4. This team is named after an animal.
5. This team is located somewhere in the Midwest.

Last Week: Chiefs