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Patriots-Broncos predictions: Media prognosticators lean toward Denver taking close game

01.17.14 at 1:17 pm ET
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One thing is clear about the predictions coming in for Sunday’€™s AFC championship game between the Patriots and the Broncos — most believe it’€™ll be a close game. Both local and national media favor Denver, but, like the score predictions, neither team has a blowout lead.

On WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan, Gery Callahan was the only one to favor the Patriots. While Callahan thinks Tom Brady will lead New England to a 31-28 win, John Dennis (37-24) and Kirk Minihane (31-24) believe Denver will win it behind a Peyton Manning MVP effort. Minihane and Callahan predict the 49ers will take the NFC title, while Dennis projects the Seahawks will pick up the game on their own turf.

On Mut & Merloni, Mike Mutnansky is going with the Broncos, 35-28. Lou Merloni has the Patriots emerging victorious, 31-27. The two are split on the NFC game as well, with Mutnansky taking San Francisco and Merloni tabbing Seattle.

At SB Nation, the Patriots and Broncos split the panel, with Ryan Van Bibber, Jason Chilton and Stephen White leaning toward New England while Joel Thorman, David Fucillo and Matt Ufford predicting a Denver win.

ESPN‘s group of 13 panelists, on the other hand, favor the the Broncos. Merril Hoge, Adam Schefter, Mike Ditka, and Cris Carter project that the Patriots will come out with the win. Meanwhile Eric Allen, Mike Golic, Ron Jaworski, KC Joyner, Chris Mortensen, Mark Schlereth, Seth Wickersham, Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson are sticking with Denver.

USA Today‘€™s panel of seven favors the Broncos 6-1, with Jarrett Bell, Jim Corbett, Lindsay H. Jones, Pete O’€™Brien, Tom Pelissero and Simon Samano favoring Denver. The lone vote for the Patriots came from Nate Davis.

Following are more predictions from around the country:

Vinnie IyerSporting News: Patriots 26, Broncos 23 – “The Patriots didn’t need to play the Bengals, and blew by the Colts. Now that they survived to get to the Broncos, it’€™s easier to trust them to advance. While the expected hype is around Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, the real matchup is Bill Belichick vs. John Fox.”

Don BanksSports Illustrated: Broncos 34, Patriots 31 “It still sounds quite strange, but I think Tony Dungy had it right when he told me on Monday that this meeting of Hall of Fame-bound quarterbacks will likely come down to the running games, and the run defenses.”

Peter SchragerFox Sports: Patriots 33, Broncos 27 “No Jerod Mayo. No Brandon Spikes. No Vince Wilfork. No Wes Welker. No Deion Branch. No Brandon Lloyd. No Rob Gronkowski. No Sebastian Vollmer. No Danny Woodhead. No Aaron Hernandez. And no problem? It’€™s amazing, really to think how great the Patriots looked last Saturday night, despite the lack of names on their roster. The truth is that this team adapts to any adversity, any condition and any obstacle.”

Mike Reiss, ESPN: Patriots 27, Broncos 24 “If the Patriots can keep the Broncos to a 50 percent or less success rate in the red zone, where Denver ranked No. 1 in the regular season, I think they win the game because of their ball-control power-running approach. It’s a tall task, but in a season in which they’ve surprised at almost every turn, I think they’ll find a way.”

Tedy Bruschi, ESPN: Patriots 37, Broncos 34 “The Brady vs. Manning matchup has been overplayed this week. To me it’s Manning vs. Belichick and Brady vs. Fox. Bill has always come up with a winning plan vs. Peyton and if the ball’s in Tom’s hands at the end of the game he will find the answer.”

Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Broncos 26, Patriots 24 — “Just because the quarterbacks are phenomenal doesn’t mean there’€™s going to be a scoring rampage. In fact, if the Patriots throw more than 30 passes or so, I’€™ll be surprised. Expect New England to run the football at least that many times, with a heavy dose of, well, everybody.”

Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 30, Broncos 27 (OT) “The easy narrative for this one, based on recent and more extended history, is that the Broncos will find a way to lose and the Patriots will find a way to win.”

Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk.com: Broncos 37, Patriots 35 “I fully expect the Patriots to score four touchdowns. And yet I’€™m picking the Broncos because Peyton Manning has played the quarterback position better this season than anyone has ever played it before, and I expect him to have a very big game against New England’€™s defense. In a high-scoring game, the Broncos punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.”

Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 31, Broncos 27 “I like New England in what would be a big upset, and I do so with the utmost respect for Manning and Denver’€™s home record. Picking against Peyton at home feels like betting against tomorrow’€™s sunrise, but the gut feeling here is pretty strong.”

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Broncos 31, Patriots 24 “We can talk all we want about the running games from last week, but this will come down to Brady vs. Manning. The last time they played in a title game, Manning won. He will win again. Manning is on his way to another Super Bowl. Broncos take it.”

John Breech, CBSSports.com: Broncos 34, Patriots 31 “Conventional wisdom in this game says pick the guy who has a 10-4 career record against Manning. However, I’€™m not a fan of conventional wisdom. Also, I should probably point out that since 2005, Manning and Brady are tied 4-4 in head-to-head games and overall the two quarterbacks are tied 1-1 in AFC title games with each player winning at home. So I’€™ll take the quarterback playing at home.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, John Fox, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady
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