AFC Championship 2014: Who Will Win, New England or Denver?

Jared Wickerham

Today, the New England Patriots travel to Mile High to take on the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game. The game will kick off at 3:00 pm ET and will be commentated by Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on CBS.

I'm sure some people are tired of it, but if the NFL can give me Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning every year for the AFC Championship, I'll take it. There is never a dull moment when these two teams battle each other, including their Week 12 encounter. After the Broncos led 24-0 at halftime in Gillette Stadium, Brady led New England to a comeback, ultimately leading to a stunning 34-31 victory.

The big question heading into this game is, "can New England trust their running game against Denver's defense?" In their Week 12 encounter, Steven Ridley and LeGarrette Blount were both benched after fumbling the ball. They finished with a combined 6 carries for 27 yards, and on the day, New England only averaged 3.7 yards per carry.

The Patriots' success to close out the season has been attributed to their commitment to the running game, particularly Blount. Against the Colts on Sunday, the Ridley and Blount combined for 38 carries for 218 yards and 6 touchdowns. Most of that production came from Blount, who has a scary combination of speed and power.

It's not that New England can't run the ball against Denver -- the fumbles in Week 12 forced them to throw the ball to get back in the game. It worked, but the Patriots can't expect to come back from such a large deficit like that again. They will need to match Manning each possession, and Denver will have to avoid the stunning comeback that the Ravens had against them in the 2013 playoffs.

Vote in the poll below for who you think will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. I'll have my prediction for the game in Sunday's game thread a little later.

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