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Manning, Broncos to the Super Bowl

Compared to the rest of his accomplishments, Peyton Manning's big-game reputation is rather lacking. Not that you would have noticed Sunday, as his Denver Broncos handled the visiting New England Patriots 26-16, earning Manning (32-of-43, 400 yards, two pass TDs) a trip to his third Super Bowl. Manning is 1-1 in the Big Game, and another win could send him even higher up the all-time QB charts. Meanwhile, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were denied trips to their sixth Super Bowl together, and one must wonder if they'll ever make it back.

How much does the Broncos' 26-16 win over the Patriots improve Peyton Manning's reputation in big games?

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    42%
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    42%
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    16%

Discuss (Total votes: 207,579)

  • What do you make of the Broncos' 26-16 win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game?

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      66%
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      34%

    Discuss (Total votes: 16,553)

  • How do you feel about the Broncos' 26-16 win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game?

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      65%
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      16%
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      19%

    Discuss (Total votes: 13,992)

  • If Peyton Manning wins another Super Bowl, where will he rank among the best QBs of all time?

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      45%
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      24%
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      31%

    Discuss (Total votes: 203,552)

  • Whose career would you rather have?

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      51%
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      21%
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      28%

    Discuss (Total votes: 5,669)

  • Would the Patriots have reached the Super Bowl if Rob Gronkowski had been healthy this season?

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      36%
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      64%

    Discuss (Total votes: 5,557)

  • Will Tom Brady and Bill Belichick ever reach another Super Bowl together?

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      28%
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      23%
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      49%

    Discuss (Total votes: 43,381)

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ESPN Illustration

Trading Places: Brady and Manning

What if Peyton Manning had come up under the coaching of Bill Belichick in New England with Randy Moss and Rob Gronkowski as targets? What if Tom Brady had been drafted in the sixth round by the Colts and formed a bond with Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne? Greg Garber reached out to several players and front-office personnel to get their opinions on just how much the coaching and supporting casts have meant to these two quarterbacks. We'll take it a step further and ask you: What if the players stayed put and the coaches switched sides? Cast your votes on all these scenarios and more below.

  • If Tom Brady and Peyton Manning had switched places, how successful would Brady have been in Indy/Denver? (Manning: 2 conf. titles, 1 Super Bowl)

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      37%
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      31%
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      32%

    Discuss (Total votes: 17,438)

  • If Tom Brady and Peyton Manning had switched places, how successful would Manning have been in New England? (Brady: 5 conf. titles, 3 Super Bowls)

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      37%
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      31%
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      32%

    Discuss (Total votes: 32,219)

  • If Tony Dungy and Bill Belichick had switched places from 2002-08, how successful would Dungy have been in New England? (Belichick: 3 conf. titles, 2 Super Bowls)

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      8%
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      21%
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      71%

    Discuss (Total votes: 14,585)

  • If Tony Dungy and Bill Belichick had switched places from 2002-08, how successful would Belichick have been in Indianapolis? (Dungy: 1 conf. title, 1 Super Bowl)

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      75%
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      16%
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      9%

    Discuss (Total votes: 14,424)

  • Who has been more critical to the Patriots' success?

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      43%
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      24%
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      33%

    Discuss (Total votes: 15,386)

  • Which quarterback/wide receiver combination would have been more fun to see?

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      72%
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      28%

    Discuss (Total votes: 15,399)

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AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

The Wes Welker advantage?

Most of the attention leading up to the AFC Championship Game will focus on the 15th meeting between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. But if you are looking for another X factor, how about Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, who spent six seasons in New England under the tutelage of Bill Belichick and caught passes from Brady? Welker left New England this past offseason after he was unable to come to terms on a new contract and has settled in nicely in Denver. A late-season concussion caused him to miss five weeks, but he returned in time to score an important touchdown in the Broncos' divisional-round win over the Chargers. Does having Welker on the roster give the Broncos a distinct advantage against the Patriots? Will Welker torch his former team?

  • What do you expect out of Wes Welker against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game?

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      18%
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      47%
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      26%
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      9%

    Discuss (Total votes: 39,565)

  • How much of an advantage does it give the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game to have Wes Welker, who formerly played for the Patriots?

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      28%
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      52%
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      20%

    Discuss (Total votes: 18,307)

  • What are you rooting for in the AFC Championship Game?

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      64%
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      17%
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      19%

    Discuss (Total votes: 17,381)

  • Which Broncos wide receiver will come up biggest in the AFC Championship Game?

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      23%
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      46%
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      17%
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      14%

    Discuss (Total votes: 17,150)

Comment »

As usual, there is no shortage of top-tier talent on both sidelines of the AFC and NFC Championship Games. The Broncos will bring their high-flying offense to the party, while the Seahawks' shutdown defense will get a boost from Seattle's 12th Man fan base. The Patriots bring not only a Hall of Fame quarterback but also a Hall of Fame coach. And the 49ers certainly aren't lacking in any of the aforementioned areas. How do all of these talented units stack up? Click the images below to submit your rankings.

Rank: Conference Championship Units

49ers' offense

49ers' offense

Pictured: Colin Kaepernick

49ers' defense

49ers' defense

Pictured: Patrick Willis

49ers' coaching

49ers' coaching

Pictured: Jim Harbaugh

Broncos' offense

Broncos' offense

Pictured: Peyton Manning

Broncos' defense

Broncos' defense

Pictured: Wesley Woodyard (left) and Danny Trevathan (right)

Broncos' coaching

Broncos' coaching

Pictured: John Fox

Patriots' offense

Patriots' offense

Pictured: Tom Brady

Patriots' defense

Patriots' defense

Pictured: Rob Ninkovich

Patriots' coaching

Patriots' coaching

Pictured: Bill Belichick

Seahawks' offense

Seahawks' offense

Pictured: Russell Wilson

Seahawks' defense

Seahawks' defense

Pictured: Richard Sherman

Seahawks' coaching

Seahawks' coaching

Pictured: Pete Carroll

Your Rankings

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Getty Images

AFC Championship Game

And so they meet again. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will face off once more in the AFC Championship Game, this time with Manning wearing a Broncos jersey. Brady owns the overall rivalry with a 10-4 record against Manning, although the two have split AFC title games with New England winning in 2003 and Manning's Colts advancing to the Super Bowl in 2006. Which team will come out on top this season? Will the Patriots be in Manning's head after their unbelievable comeback in Week 12 to defeat the Broncos in overtime?

Which team will win the AFC Championship Game?

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    63%
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    37%

Discuss (Total votes: 213,018)

  • Which QB from Sunday's AFC Championship Game would you rather have leading your team?

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      47%
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      53%

    Discuss (Total votes: 87,906)

  • Which of these individual rivalries has been the most fun to watch?

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      83%
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      5%
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      12%

    Discuss (Total votes: 30,707)

  • What do you expect out of Wes Welker against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game?

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      18%
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      47%
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      26%
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      9%

    Discuss (Total votes: 39,565)

  • Do the Patriots have a psychological edge against the Broncos having come back from a 24-point deficit to win in Week 12?

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      49%
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      51%

    Discuss (Total votes: 28,909)

  • Is Peyton Manning's 10-11 record in the postseason a stain on his legacy?

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      54%
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      46%

    Discuss (Total votes: 28,421)

  • Which of the top five coaches with the most postseason wins in NFL history is the best coach?

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      8%
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      58%
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      5%
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      6%
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      23%

    Discuss (Total votes: 28,309)

Comment »