It's been hard to escape the hype for Patriots-Broncos (Sunday, 3 p.m. CBS) this week. Nearly everyone has a take. Will Peyton Manning choke in the playoffs once again? Will Tom Brady come through in the clutch one more time? Do the Broncos have too many weapons? Do the Patriots have too few?
A few predictions from Metro Boston staff and contributors:
Matt Burke, Sports Editor: Patriots 38, Broncos 34. For the first time in my 31-year existence, I picked an NFL playoff game correctly last weekend, point-spread and all (Patriots to slam Indy). Can't stop riding the Pats now. Kenbrell Thompkins (who was targeted nine times by Brady against Denver in Week 12) turns into David Patten 2.0 and the Patriots once again find a way late.
James Toscano, Patriots, Celtics writer: Broncos 31, Patriots 24. For the Patriots to be where they are after losing so many players throughout the season is truly remarkable. But the ride ends Sunday, when a stacked Broncos offense is just too much to overcome.
Ryan Hannable, Red Sox writer: Broncos 31, Patriots 24. As much as I'd like to pick the Patriots, they are just too banged up on both sides of the ball. Peyton Manning should be able to have his way against the depleted Pats secondary and win in a one-score game.
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Rich Slate, Bruins writer:Broncos 30, Patriots 27.A patented Peyton Manning choke job is certainly within the realm of possibilities but the Broncos have too many weapons for him to fail (for now).
Ryan Hadfield, columnist: Patriots 27, Broncos 20. The Patriots control the ball – and the score – before Peyton Manning mounts a Manning-like comeback, only to throw a Manning-like, game-sealing interception to none other than Boston's new favorite sports hero, Aqib Talib – the mercurial, free agent cornerback, who the Patriots are 17-5 with when he’s in the lineup.