NFL Playoffs 2015: Defense And Survival The Theme Of AFC Playoffs

NFL: AFC Championship-New England Patriots at Denver Broncos

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, no matter how you look at it, will determine the Broncos playoff success. (Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

There is a lot to like about the AFC match ups this weekend and it a lot of the intrigue starts with the coaches. You didn’t read that wrong, I strongly believe that the four head coaches matching wits this weekend will play a huge role in the success of their teams outcome.

Andy Reid, Mike Tomlin, Bill Belichick, and Gary Kubiak will put philosophies and experience to the test this week. I’m interested to see who cracks first.

On to the games…

Pittsburgh Steelers (+9.0) v. Denver Broncos (-9.0)

It’s one thing to go into the playoffs with all of your hopes pinned to a quarterback pushing 40 years old. It’s an entirely different story to have a legitimate Super Bowl roster and hope that 40-year old quarterback.

This is the story of the 2015 Denver Broncos.

One thing going for the Broncos this weekend is that Antonio Brown has been ruled out with a concussion,  and there’s also a chance the Steelers could be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder). I don’t like Pittsburgh’s chances without one of those two and I really don’t like their chances without both.

But counting Pittsburgh out completely isn’t wise.

We know the Steelers defense is one of the best in the league against the run, which takes away what Gary Kubiak really likes to do on offense. That could pose a problem if the offense reverts back to relying too much on Manning, especially if he’s not 100%. Kubiak has shown a knack for adapting, however, and I think he does the same here in utilizing the receivers he has in mismatches against the Steelers’ secondary early to create some space.

I expect the Broncos to win. The last time these two teams met, Antonio Brown and Roethlisberger kept things moving (Brown had 16 catches, 189 yards that game) and without that I think that puts the Steelers at a greater disadvantage.

Prediction: Broncos 28, Steelers 17

Kansas City Chiefs (+4.5) v. New England Patriots (-4.5)

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Tom Brady possibly gets Julian Edelman back, Saturday. That’s good news if you’re a Patriots fan.

There are two ways to approach this game if you’re looking to “analyze” the match up.

You can look at the Quarterback’s and see there’s Tom Brady facing off against Alex Smith and understand that’s an obvious positional advantage for the Patriots. Or you can look at the two rosters and understand a very simple reality:

The Kansas City Chiefs match up really, really well with the Patriots.

Now I know a lot of New England fans don’t want to hear that, and they also would never admit it; but what the Chiefs have on defense is not a mirage. The Patriots have injury issues they have to account for (Gronkowski was getting knee treatment in the hospital on Thursday) and the Patriots best three players on defense (McCourty, Collins, and Hightower) will be seeing their first action at the same time and in the same game since the middle of the season.

But…

The Chiefs have their own injury issues to contend with. Jeremy Maclin is questionable, and the offensive line for Kansas City is banged up as well.

So it all comes back to the coaches. And I trust Belichick more than Andy Reid. I love everything about the Chiefs defense keeping the Patriots at bay, what I don’t love is trusting the Chiefs to put together a string of good drives against the Patriots to keep that defense fresh.

Prediction: Patriots 21, Chiefs 10

Thoughts? Let me know about’em! Follow me on Twitter @DACubbage

 

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