Take the Blount approach

  • By: David John (Twitter: @SLifeDaveJohn)
  • Last Updated: January 19 2014, 21:20 GMT

Our David John is keen to take on New England's LeGarrette Blount in Sunday's AFC Championship game at Denver.

LeGarrette Blount: Has done well of late but faces a real test this weekend
LeGarrette Blount: Has done well of late but faces a real test this weekend

New England at Denver (2000GMT)

There is no doubt I will be cheering on the Broncos in this one having got them on the ante-post slip for the Super Bowl at 7/1.

And I would be a fair deal more optimistic of their chances of reaching the season finale in a fortnight too if it had been any other opponents bar Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots.

Denver quarterback Peyton Manning may well have registered a record-breaking season but the debate has raged in the build-up as he prepares to face his nemesis Brady again.

They are the two best quarterbacks of their generation and two of the best of all-time but it is Brady who leads the head-to-head match-ups with a 10-4 record.

So are we going to see the mental side of the game get the better of Manning once more with a shot at the biggest prize in the sport on the line?

The naysayers will point to Denver frittering away a 24-0 half-time advantage when the two teams met at Foxboro back in November in a dramatic 34-31 overtime loss.

Although Manning did throw an interception, it is pretty tough to lay the blame squarely at his feet. Once the Patriots had nosed in front, Manning led a 10-play, 80-yard drive to get his team back on level terms and force overtime.

No-one seemed to question his resolution then. And the shambles on the ensuing punt-return that gave New England the opportunity to kick the game-winning field goal was nothing to do with him either.

But the problem for Manning is that he is battling with his own legacy as well as the Patriots. He turns 38 this year and for all the astronomical numbers he has generated, getting to at least one more Super Bowl will be very much in his thoughts in terms of the career CV.

That is all speculation and debate for another day though. The offense he commands is as explosive as any he has ever had and has the potency to simply blow a rival away.

But Brady and Belichick are relishing the underdog tag this week and as I have mentioned before, this could well be their finest achievement in terms of the cast they have had to work with.

Injuries have seen a number of unsung heroes rise to the challenge and progress to this stage of the campaign is more to do with New England's unswerving belief they can beat anyone on any day rather than the current talent on the roster.

Brady has a 7-0 record now against a defense marshalled by co-ordinator Jack Del Rio, while a torn ACL suffered by cornerback Chris Harris last week will give him further hope that there will be areas in the secondary to exploit.

But main targets Danny Amendola and Julien Edelman are not the type of receiver to really stretch a field deep with burning speed or cause a mismatch issue like the sidelined Rob Gronkowski.

So it is the running game of the visitors that I am keen to examine more closely.

LeGarrette Blount has put up big numbers for New England in the past two games and the theory is that Belichick will look to pound the ball once more in a bid to keep Manning off the field.

Blount has come up with some big plays recently but I can see that coming to a halt here against a group of very useful run-stuffers led by the gargantuan Terrance Knighton.

Del Rio has spoken this week of eliminating that part of the Patriots offense as priority number one and that could see Blount's production drop significantly. Keep in mind too, that the Pats rotate their runners with Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley likely to get some of the workload.

The line on the former Tampa star's total rushing yards in the game is 79.5 and I am keen to get on the low side of that.

Overall, my view may be slightly clouded, but I do think Denver will justify the favourite's tag and the greater talent they have available can put enough points on the board to keep Brady and co at bay - at last.

Verdict: New England 22 Denver 31

    The game is being televised live in the UK on Sky Sports.

  • Posted at 1440 GMT on 18/01/2014.