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AFC: An old story, sort of

Stop me if you've heard this before.

On one sideline, Peyton Manning.

On the other, Tom Brady.

Between them, a ticket to the Super Bowl, waiting to be punched.

And, yes, it's different this time, because not just Manning's legacy but Brady's is on the line. The former still carries the old stigma -- Superman in the regular season, Clark Kent in the playoffs. But now the latter does, too; since winning the last of his three rings nine years ago, Brady has been to two Super Bowls and lost them both.

So for once, both of them have something to prove. The difference this time is it'll be either LeGarrette Blount or Knowshon Moreno who wind up proving it.

Blount, of course, is the guy who put the Pats on his back in the divisional win over the Colts, rushing for 166 yards and four touchdowns. And while Manning threw for 230 yards and two scores Sunday in the 24-17 win over San Diego, it was Moreno who helped the Broncos drain the last 3:53 off the clock after the Chargers closed to within a touchdown.

So this time could be more about the respective running games and defenses than Peyton-vs.-Tom-Terrific. Something to think about.

Ben Smith's blog.