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New England versus Denver: A conversation about the AFC Championship Game

January 24, 2016

The following is a conversation between four strangers about this afternoon's AFC Championship game (click here for thoughts on the NFC game):

Just a man dialing up the past.
Bryan Harvey: So we have Brady, and we have Manning. And, while Brady commands the regular season win-loss record, the rivalry is deadlocked at two playoff games apiece. You, me, all of us, are meant to believe this means everything. 

Carlos Sampedro: This would have been an interesting matchup five years ago. Brady is still Brady, but Manning is a ghost of himself.

BH: I get what you’re saying, but I don’t feel like he moves quite like a ghost. He seems less an ethereal version of himself and more a rigid one. Could we say he’s a mummy of himself?

John Nolan: It is sad. He’s one of the greatest.

Bryan Harvey: This happens, though, right? It just doesn’t usually happen while a guy’s playing with a potentially all-time great defense, so usually a fading quarterback’s season has already faded.

CS: Yeah, but Manning can still manage the game and keep his team in the game. If Tim Tebow can beat the Steelers in the Playoffs, anyone can win this sort of game. The Broncos have so many guys that could be the difference: Thomas, Sanders, Hillman, or Anderson.

Henry Thode: Tebow won that game for Denver on a deep ball. Manning struggles to make that sort of play now, limiting the Denver offense tremendously. The deep play action game for them is, at this point, totally nonexistent.

JN: Only thing Peyton can deliver long distance at this point is a Papa John’s pizza.

BH: Ouch.

JN: Someone had to say it.

HT: It’s not just his deep passes, though. Even Peyton’s shorter passes look rough. I think the offense is better served with Brock.

BH: When healthy.

JN: This game will come down to Brady versus the Bronco defense.

"Did Peyton order the pizza yet?" "He better not eat it all." "He always eats it all."

BH: That’s what I hate about every Manning versus Brady matchup. Unlike in tennis or basketball or track and field, they’re actually not really on the field at the same time. And, like all of you guys have  already said Manning isn’t quite Manning anymore, so what we have is a quarterback in Brady who is still playing like an all-time great lining up against a defense that is in the process of auditioning for legendary status.

JN: Brady has had some rough trips to Denver, but with Gronk and Edelman back, he should have enough to outscore Brandon McManus, if he can avoid multiple turnovers.

BH: I like that you mentioned Edelman. I watched the divisional round with my in-laws, who are all Patriot fans. They speak about the relationship between Brady and his little receiver that could like it was Linus and his blue blanket. It’s easy to focus on Gronk because of the touchdowns, but Edelman moves the chains. I also don’t know how you take one of these guys out of the game defensively without allowing the other to dominate.

HT: Did you just make Belichick Charlie Brown?

BH: I guess in some strange alternate universe, but doesn’t he seem more like a Lucy?

CS: Brady to Edelman and Gronk will happen, but is this the game where not having a running game actually matters? I also don’t think the New England’s defense is full of world beaters.

BH: Are you picking Denver?

CS: No, I think New England wins. New England is New England. Denver made it this far without knowing who they are, but that’s it.

HT: I think the Pats will be too much for Denver too.

JN: Same, but look for it to be more of a struggle than what’s on paper suggests.

BH: There’s no real reason not to pick New England. If you believe in the Denver defense enough to pull off the upset, you’re pretty much betting directly against Tom Brady, which never makes a ton of sense. Also, the Denver defense isn’t like those old Baltimore defenses where you just kind of feel it in your gut that Brady’s in for a long day. Then again, if Denver does win, that narrative hole no longer exists.

JN: So who are you picking?

BH: I’m hoping something weird will happen, but I don’t want to know what it is until it happens. After all, this is the rubber match in the Brady-Manning saga. 

Carlos Sampedro measures snowfall in Virginia, but only on the days he's not teaching. John Nolan is a teacher and baseball coach in the Commonwealth. Henry Thode is a teacher, coach, and athletic director in Virginia. Bryan Harvey teaches in Virginia and tweets @LawnChairBoys. Thanks for reading. 


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