AFC Championship Matches Familiar Foes

AFC ChampionshipNo one way to avoid it, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are just destined for prime-time football. Once again, the familiar foes will be matching up against one another in the AFC Championship game. It goes all the way back to 2001, when they had their first meeting.  They met the same year in the playoffs, and again a few years later. Every time, they were fighting to see who would move on in the playoffs or who will move onto the Super Bowl.  Tom Brady won five games in a row and nine of their 13 meetings total. It has been a common theme that Tom Brady gets the better of the two, winning three Super Bowls and creating a dynasty during his tenure at quarterback with the New England Patriots.

Peyton Manning, on the other hand, would still put up stellar numbers in regular season games, but stalled when hitting the cold in Foxboro. He just hasn’t been the same quarterback. In Peyton’s defense, though, he did lead his former team the Indianapolis Colts, to a Super Bowl win. Along with his Super Bowl win he’s a former Most Valuable Player (MVP) winner, and likely to win the award again this season. He is at least a front-running candidate. The record points to Brady as victor, but it is a closer comparison than the numbers suggest.

It is a familiar match, these two perennial AFC foes meeting in the playoffs, battling for the Championship and beyond. While both quarterbacks have enjoyed success, each team has come about it in different ways. The Denver Broncos have been a high-flying offense, Peyton setting the pace by breaking the high-yardage mark this season that Drew Brees set back in 2011 and surpassing the record for touchdowns thrown in a year. That mark was set by none other than Tom Brady back in 2007.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots just went about their season winning ball games in any fashion they could. When the offense wasn’t clicking the defense would step up and keep the team in the game. When Tom Brady wasn’t in rhythm, their bruising running backs would carry the workload on offense. No matter if it was ugly or magnificent both quarterbacks are known to be clutch when the game is on the line and when their team needs it the most. Next weekend may be one of the most important games either of them have faced this season, with each of their careers winding down and the Championship game at stake.

Two of the best players at the quarterback position this generation will be on the field next weekend, but what’s flying under the radar is that two of the best coaches of their time will be as well. John Fox has done a great job running Broncos as head coach and Bill Belichick is recognized as one of the best to ever coach the New England Patriots. John Fox is still chasing his first title, while Bill is looking for his fourth as the Patriots head coach.

Supporting casts will be just as vital for each game, both sides having significant injury concerns.  Certainly the venue for the game will be a large factor, Denver having home field advantage throughout the playoffs. No matter who wins one of these greats will leave the game unhappy, but there is some consolation in the fact that both will be headed to the Hall of Fame soon enough. Some consolation, but not much. Possibilities abound as these familiar foes once again meet in the AFC Championship. Some will wonder if we will ever see these two match up again, or if one, or both, will walk away after the smoke clears. Only time will tell.

by Justin Huffman

NFL.com

ESPN

The New York Times