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Broncos-Patriots AFC title game finally comes a year late

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The Denver Broncos did on Jan. 12 exactly what they couldn't do last Jan. 12. The Broncos held on against the upstart San Diego Chargers, one year after they couldn't do the same against the Baltimore Ravens. As such, the Broncos and Peyton Manning will get the exact same fate they missed out on last postseason - the chance to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for the AFC title.

All of 2012 seemed to be building up for Brady and Manning's third AFC championship game together, and first since 2007. However, the Ravens ruined that dream scenario at the last second, which seemed to clear the way for the Patriots to return to the Super Bowl. Of course, the Ravens ruined that dream as well, leaving both the Patriots and Broncos with unfinished business for 2013.

With Baltimore long gone, Denver and New England are finally playing for a Super Bowl berth a year later. Still, this AFC championship will look a lot different than last year's hypothetical showdown would have been. Last year's Patriots would have visited the Broncos with Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and a healthy core behind Brady, while this year's team has won in spite of having none of these things.

Even without all that, the 2013 Patriots still not only beat the Broncos, they rallied from a 24-0 halftime deficit over them two months ago. Nevertheless, that game was in New England while the rematch takes place in Denver -- just as last year's AFC championship battle would have. Given that the Patriots were eliminated at home by the Ravens last season, maybe going on the road will help them this time.

Perhaps the Patriots would have had a better chance against the Broncos last year, given all they've been without this year and how the Broncos are even more explosive than in 2012. However, Denver has much more pressure to finally reach the Super Bowl this year, while New England doesn't have the bigger bulls-eye on its back for once.

It wasn't the right time for Brady and Manning to duel last January. Now that they're making up for it this January, it could be exactly the right time -- either for Manning's redemption, or Brady's most unlikely AFC championship ever. Given everything, it makes sense that one will get it at the expense of the other.



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