Let’s just put it out there: Peyton Manning has never looked as bad as he’s looked this season, he’s 39 years old, and the Denver Broncos are home underdogs in the AFC Championship.
In other words, no one is expecting Manning to win this game, so really, what does he have to lose?
“I honestly don’t think he has anything to lose,” Bleacher Report NFL analyst Chris Simms said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Peyton Manning, without a doubt, is one of the three greatest quarterbacks of all time. The biggest thing he’s going lose, really, is going to be just another chance of him sitting on the couch watching Tom Brady win another Super Bowl. That’s what’s probably going to drive him crazy out of this whole situation. But I think realistically when you look at the matchup, it’s Tom Brady, who’s still one of the three or four best quarterbacks in football, and – I don’t like saying this – but Peyton Manning is one of the three or four worst quarterbacks in football at this age. The guy almost led the NFL in interceptions and he didn’t play the last six weeks of the year. So I look at this game more as not necessarily Manning versus Brady, but I look at it as Brady and Josh McDaniels versus Wade Phillips, and then I go (Gary) Kubiak and Manning versus Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick. And of course I like the advantage to the New England Patriots in those match-ups.”
Denver beat New England, 30-24, in overtime in Week 12 but trailed by 14 in the fourth quarter before staging an improbable comeback with Brock Osweiler.
“Denver, this is the type of game I don’t think they can just win straight up,” Simms said. “They’re going to have to force sack-fumbles, short fields, interception returns – because if it just goes up and down the field, there’s no way they can keep pace with the Patriots. I don’t think it’ll be a blowout, but I do think there’s a possibility. If New England goes down the first drive, scores a touchdown, Denver goes three-and-out and New England gets another touchdown, then you’re going to force Denver to play a game they’re not comfortable playing. Peyton Manning (is) certainly not capable of dropping back and throwing 45 to 50 times. Then I think that could become a blowout AFC Championship Game.”
Looking at the NFC Championship, Simms gives a slight edge to Arizona.
“Cam Newton is the MVP. He’s the ultimate X-factor,” Simms said. “But I honestly think the Arizona Cardinals are the better football team in this matchup. I thought Arizona was going to be in the Super Bowl since about Week 5 or 6. That’s where I’m leaning toward in this matchup, but I realize it’s very even. It could go either way.”