The storyline has been in place all season, for years, really. Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning.
The AFC Championship might turn on the running of LaGarette Blount for the New England Patriots or Knowshon Moreno for the Denver Broncos. But the likelihood of both having dominant games is slim to none, meaning the game will come down to Brady or Manning in the fourth quarter.
At that point, history must be honored.
Brady and Manning have got their teams into this exact situation three times previously, with Brady’s Patriots winning two of the three.
Manning has four MVP awards; Brady has three Super Bowl rings and has been to five, to Manning’s one and two. Brady is a game from leading his team to a sixth Super Bowl, something no other quarterback in NFL history has done.
Four times Manning has entered postseasons as the No. 1 seed and lost at home. Manning is 10-11 in career playoff games. Brady is 18-7.
Comparisons are sometimes too simplistic. Brady’s teams routinely had better defenses than Manning’s, and Manning himself said Bill Belichick will go down as the greatest NFL coach of all time and “the best coach I’ve ever competed against.”
So maybe the tipping point isn’t Brady-Manning but rather Manning-Belichick. Manning is .500 or better against all but a handful of teams: Indianapolis (0-1), Green Bay (1-2), the Bears (1-2) and Miami (5-7).
And one more: The New England Patriots at 6-12. This will not be the storybook ending to what could be Manning’s final game.
New England 30, Denver 17
Get Moon's pick for the NFC championship game between the Seahawks and 49ers.