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5 Up/5 Down – Conference Championships

Juicy, scrumptious, luscious, succulent, savory, piquant, and sumptuous would possibly be some words you could use to describe the matchups for Championship Weekend. Brady vs. Manning, Tough Defense vs. High Flying Offense. I have goosebumps as I prepare myself to watch these games. The best four teams are truly playing this weekend to determine who will get the chance to hold the Lombardi Trophy.

I’m 7-1 so far in in post-season predictions and looking forward to diagnosing these games and trying to select winners and the Super Bowl participates. Let’s Dive In!


Sunday, January 24

3:05 PM

New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos

In the last installment of Brady vs. Manning, the setting is where it should be, the winner taking his team to the Super Bowl. There are key matchups in this game that I am watching that will determine the outcome. Let’s look at the in-game battles that will determine this outcome:


Broncos’ Run Offense vs. New England’s Front 7

C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman will need to have great days to keep this New England defense on it’s toes. In their regular season meeting, the Broncos were able to churn out 179 rushing yards to lead them to victory. They need to find the same success in this game to come out on top.


Broncos’ Pass Offense vs. New England’s Secondary

Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and the tight end squad have an advantage on the New England secondary. They dropped too many balls against Pittsburgh and therefore made the game closer than it should have been. If they make those catches early in the game, I believe that game is a blowout and the Steelers are down at least 2 touchdowns at halftime. The receiving options for New England need to be on point and ready to go on Sunday.


Peyton Manning vs. Bill Belichick/Matt Patricia

The mind game that has captivated us for years, one last time.


Patriots’ Run Offense vs. Broncos’ Front 7

If the Patriots get their run game going in this game, this could get ugly. They have their dip and dunk pass game that will get them plenty of yards, but the run game will keep the chains moving and formulate touchdowns against this defense. The Broncos’ front seven needs to be excellent to keep the Patriots one dimensional.


Patriots’ Pass Offense vs. Broncos’ Secondary

The hardest pass offense to stop in the NFL vs. the best secondary in the NFL. The Broncos will have to make tackles in the open field or the New England wide receivers and Gronk will be all over the field. Missed tackles will turn into big gains, and big gains turn into points for Tom Brady and the offense. Chris Harris’ health may be a big deal, if he cannot go, expect the Patriots to pick on Bradley Roby in coverage.


Tom Brady vs. Wade Phillips

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips knows that the New England offensive line is banged up. He is a coordinator that likes to dial up the pressure and will need to do so to create havoc for Tom Brady and this passing attack.


Special Teams Battle

This and turnovers will be the momentum changing opportunity one of the teams will use to win the game. Julian Edelman is a dangerous return man and can break one at any time. The Broncos’ special teams unit must contain him or keep the ball from him in these moments.


Best Fantasy Players for the Broncos:

Peyton Manning (QB), Emmanuel Sanders (WR), C.J. Anderson (RB)

This game will come down to Peyton letting his playmakers get in open field. The two biggest X-factors for the Broncos on offense that can break this game open are Sanders and Anderson. Emmanuel Sanders can give the Pats defense a taste of their own medicine, dipping and dunking through the defense and getting quick yards.

Anderson will have to be a wrecking ball and grind out yards between the tackles to establish a run game. Demaryius Thomas will be the end zone threat and may have a few touchdowns, but Sanders and Anderson will get him there to have those opportunities.  I would also put a Broncos’ tight end out there for a deep sleeper, but I’m not sure which one will make the plays. We may see Vernon Davis, Owen Daniels, Virgil Green make some plays in this game on first down play-action to keep the Patriots’ run stuffing linebackers honest on first down.


Best Fantasy Players for the Patriots:

Tom Brady (QB), Julian Edelman (WR), and Rob Gronkowski (TE)

These three are the obvious choices and will need to produce against the Broncos defense. I expect them to try different formations and try to get Gronk one-on-one on a linebacker or corner against the sideline more than just in the end zone. This could also give Edelman and Amendola more space to roam the middle. I’m very intrigued how the Patriots will try to keep the Broncos honest in this game by their run game. Steven Jackson will play a key role but goes against the toughest run defense in the trenches.


Game Prediction:

Denver Broncos – 23

New England Patriots – 20

Patriots are healthier and are favorites in this game, rightfully so, but I can’t do it. I cannot pick against Peyton Manning in this last matchup with Tom Brady. This is his last go around in the league and will be prepared to do whatever it takes to win this game. The Broncos defense will show up and do its part, but the Broncos offense will show up to win this game.

The New England secondary is its Achilles heel and will be the downfall all game long as Peyton will pick them apart and put points on the board. Wade Phillips will dial up the pressure and has the talent to break down the pocket with 4-5 players leaving 6-7 in coverage all night making it difficult for the Patriots to continuously find first downs.This is Peyton’s last stand and he will get the chance to go out like John Elway in the Super Bowl.

Two Fun Stats: The Patriots haven’t won a road postseason game since 2006, Peyton Manning has beaten the Patriots the last two times they have met in the AFC Championship.

About Dan Collins

I have always been an avid football enthusiast. The NFL Draft and Fantasy Football is my passion in the realm of football. I write Mock Drafts and inform readers of what is happening during the critical stages of the NFL Draft. I spend way too much time working through Fantasy Football analysis, situations, and thoughts; it is an issue. Follow on Twitter @Dan_R_Collins for Football info and the occasional joke or wisecrack.