JP Peterson's Prediction: New England vs. Denver

We have two historic Championship game match-ups this year with compelling story lines. Hard to get better than Brady vs. Peyton 15 and the 49ers vs. Seahawks smack down should be a physical bloodbath for the ages. A battle of new school quarterbacks who have two very different approaches to the game on and off the field.

Let’s focus on Brady vs. Peyton 15. Or should it be Brady/Belichick vs. Peyton?

The dynamic duo have owned Peyton over the years beating him the first 6 times they met and 10 of the 14 times. If you count the match-up of SNL Hosting duties, Peyton won that in a landslide...his comedic timing light years ahead of Brady’s! Three times they have met in the playoffs including two AFC title games which they split. Here’s a re-cap from our friends at CBSsports.com.

 2003 AFC Championship: Patriots 24, Colts 14

Many doubted the Patriots despite a 14-2 record on this frigid, snowy January day in Gillette Stadium, but the defense ended Manning’s season by picking off four of his passes. Ty Law had three himself, and only two Colts players caught more passes from Peyton. Brady went 22-for-37 for 237 yards, a touchdown and an interception, as the Patriots earned their trip to the Super Bowl.

2004 Divisional Round: Patriots 20, Colts 3

Another postseason meeting, another round of “experts” picking the Colts, another Patriots victory. The defense held the Colts to three points after Manning’s team averaged more than 32 points per game during the regular season, and Brady and the offense possessed the ball for 37:43 in the huge victory in Foxboro. Manning threw zero touchdowns and one pick. Brady threw for one touchdown and ran for another.

2006 AFC Championship: Colts 38, Patriots 34

One of the most painful Patriots losses in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era came at the RCA Dome in January 2007. The Patriots opened up a 21-3 lead before Manning drove the Colts 80 yards for a field goal before halftime. The Colts stormed back to tie the game in the third before the two teams went back and forth, exchanging field goals and touchdowns before the Patriots took a three-point lead late in the fourth. Manning exorcised his Patriots and playoff demons by leading an 80-yard touchdown drive and Brady was intercepted on the Patriots’ last-minute desperation drive.

“I don’t get into monkeys and vindication,” Manning said after earning a trip to the Super Bowl. “I don’t play that card.”

In the meeting earlier this season, Belichick made some brilliant adjustments and beat Peyton and his awesome array of weaponry…on a cold Foxboro night the Patriots patch work defense missing 4 starters held Manning to his lowest completion percentage and yardage of the season.Manning went 19-36 for a mere 150 yards, 2 TD’s and 1 pick. The Broncos ran for 280 yards on 48 carries, but surrendered a 24-0 lead, as Brady rallied the Patriots for a 34-31 overtime win and the largest comeback in franchise history.

All this suggests that Belichick…perhaps more than Brady…has Peyton’s number with his defensive schemes that aim to neutralize a team’s biggest weapon. Ironic that Peyton’s main target will be former Patriot Wes Welker who has had concussion issues this year. Do you think Belichick will emphasize finishing tackles on Welker? I’m not saying there will be a bounty on Welker but given his comments on Belichick after he left and his importance in the Broncos Red Zone offense…you can bet the Pats will target Welker for Operation Shutdown! And don’t forget…this is the playoffs where Playoff Peyton is a career 10-11 and Brady/Belichick a robust 18-7. Peyton’s QB numbers against the Patriots have been well below his career regular season numbers.

Of course Peyton wants to downplay the match-up and with these kind of lopsided numbers why wouldn’t he? Plus, with Playoff Peyton having self-esteem issues you wonder if he presses knowing this will be his best…and maybe last…chance to beat Brady/Belichick. The Patriots are beat up on both sides of the ball and the Broncos offense has been the best in NFL history with Peyton setting records for yards and passing TD’s with 55. Plus he has Brady at Altitude in the cozy confines of Mile High Stadium where the forecast calls for 51 degrees and sunny! That’s a far distance from the frosty fields of Foxboro…Peyton’s personal house of horrors.

Despite an ideal setting for the Broncos it seems to be setting up for a Patriots upset. They are 4 ½ point dogs on the road and you know they will use that as motivation. For the gamblers…consider this… Peyton hasn’t covered the spread in the playoffs in 4 years. The Patriots are running the football well the last three weeks and that’s the same formula the Chargers used to beat the Broncos at Mile High earlier this season.

Here is one last number to consider. Since John Fox came to Denver, the two teams have played four times. Brady/Belichick are 4-0 vs. Denver Foxy and the Patriots have not been held under 31 points. When the two quarterbacks are about even and I have a decided advantage in the coaching match-up…I will take that side every time. It looks like the Brady/Belichick ownership of Peyton will continue…by now they should own a sizeable piece of his Papa John’s franchise! Better Numbers, Better Football…Papa Tom!