Initial Thoughts: Patriots Ready For Tall Task Versus Broncos

Derek Havens
January 13, 2014 at 10:00am ET

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The New England Patriots will face the Denver Broncos at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19 in the AFC Championship Game.

Tom Brady and the Patriots go on the road to face the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game Sunday.
(USA TODAY Images)

Both teams met in week 12, when the Pats came away with a 34-31 victory. This upcoming game, however, will be vastly different for many reasons. Here are some initial thoughts on the contest:

Brady vs Manning 15: Yes, it's the Patriots at the Broncos, but all week you'll hear Brady versus Manning and the NFL -- and it's core fans -- wouldn't want it any other way. This game will add another exciting chapter to one of the greatest sports rivalries of all time.

Different Game Than Nov. 24: As aforementioned, these two teams last met in week 12. While that game was less than two months ago, it's a much different contest this time around. This time it's in Denver, the Broncos will have tight end Julius Thomas, cornerback Champ Bailey, but will be without defensive star Von Miller. The Patriots will be without Rob Gronkowski, who had seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown in that contest.

Blount Will Be a Factor: The last time these teams met, running back LeGarrette Blount had two carries for 13 yards. Think that will change this week? You bet. Blount's emergence has been huge for the Pats offense and he has simply been playing on a whole different level. The past three games he has rushed 64 times for 431 yards and eight touchdowns.

Brady Dominates Del Rio: Broncos defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio, has struggled against Tom Brady over his career. According to Erik Frenz of, Brady is 171-for-235 for 1,771 yards, 17 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Bill Belichick might throw in some wrinkles on both sides of the ball, but Brady knows how to handle Del Rio's defense and has proven it.

Pats Healthy Secondary is Key: The Broncos have several quality weapons on offense, so the health and available depth for the Patriots secondary will be key. As it stands now, it seams New England is as healthy defensively as they have been in weeks. Devin McCourty, Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard have played exceptionally well, but Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan have been solid when brought in on the Pats sub packages. Expect to see five or six defensive backs the majority of the game in this contest.

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