NFL New England Patriots

Five Key Players To New England Patriots AFC Championship Victory

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Five Key Players To Patriots Win

Brady and Manning
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Despite suffering a multitude of key injuries, the New England Patriots are appearing in a third consecutive AFC Championship Game. This time it is against the Denver Broncos which should come as a surprise to nobody. The Broncos were the best team in the AFC during the regular season.

Having the best team usually means having one of the best quarterbacks, and that is exactly what Peyton Manning is. In fact, he had the best regular season of all time for any single quarterback, setting the record for touchdown passes (55) and passing yards (5,477). While some may (fairly) question his ability to perform in playoff games, there is no doubt that Manning’s regular season was one for the record books.

Manning was able to accomplish this with some great weapons around him. Demariyus Thomas is a size/speed freak who has evolved into a top-10 wide receiver in the NFL. Then there is Eric Decker who is one of the best outside possession receivers in the league. Wes Welker is reliable as always in the slot. The biggest surprise of the season is Julius Thomas, though he has always had excellent potential due to his outstanding athleticism.

Injuries have killed the defense, but there are still some good players left. Shaun Phillips has proven that he can still be a double-digit sack guy. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has once again found his dominance, and he can be considered a No. 1 caliber cornerback.

This is why the Patriots have a tough test, especially in Denver. Though the odds favor the Broncos in this one, good performances from these five players might help turn the tide in the Patriots’ favor.

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5. Julian Edelman

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If Edelman gets Champ Bailey in coverage, expect Tom Brady to throw to his favorite wide receiver a lot.

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4. Chandler Jones

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Clark is the backup plan at left tackle for the Broncos, so Jones should be able to beat him multiple times (provided that Manning does not release the football too quickly).

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3. LaGarrette Blount

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Blount has proven to be one of the keys to the Patriots offense lately, and that should not change on Sunday.

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2. Jamie Collins

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We all know about the three wide receivers, but it is Julius Thomas who is the wild-card in this one. It will be up to Collins to slow the athletic tight end down.

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1. Tom Brady

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Brady must be able to match Manning in points unless the Patriots' defense steps up once again.