AFC Playoffs Q&A: A super matchup

The Patriots certainly have proved themselves to be a resilient bunch. But the Broncos have shown repeatedly that they will not lose their focus, regardless of the circumstances. This is a team that seems to have grown closer and tougher over the past 12 months and that will be something that works in Denver's favor next Sunday.

2. Should the Patriots stick with a run-heavy offense? The scariest thing about the Patriots' success in their 43-22 win over the Colts -- when they had 46 rushing attempts and 234 yards and only 27 passes -- wasn't just the numbers they generated. It was their willingness to change things up at a time of the year that normally belongs to Brady.

For most of the past few seasons, head coach Bill Belichick has asked Brady to carry his offense with a prolific air attack. Against Indianapolis, Belichick reverted to a strategy that hadn't been seen in New England since Corey Dillon was toting the rock. LeGarrette Blount was the star (with 166 rushing yards and four touchdowns) but there was also genius in the play calling of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. It certainly helped that the Patriots were facing an opponent that ranked 26th in the NFL in rush defense, but McDaniels also remained committed to the run when it wasn't yielding huge gains in the first half. That balance -- as well as the Patriots' holding the ball for 35 minutes -- was effective in a game that turned into a blowout. It will be even more vital this coming Sunday.

3. How crucial will Denver's running game be on Sunday? The Broncos have set all sorts of records -- with Manning setting NFL marks for passing yards and passing touchdowns in a single season -- but more balance is what will take them to the Super Bowl.

Rookie Montee Ball has become a more effective option in the second half of the season and Knowshon Moreno is coming off the best season of his career (with 1,586 total yards and 13 touchdowns). Moreno also enjoyed his best game as a professional in the last meeting against New England. He gained 224 yards and, more notably, carried the ball 37 times. That game was the first indication all season that Denver was willing to add some smashmouth elements to this prolific offense. The Broncos will need to do it again in this contest, as New England will be looking to dominate the time of possession for a second straight game.

4. Who the hell is Jamie Collins? Blount may have been the star of New England 's win over Indianapolis, but Collins clearly deserved his own recognition. The rookie linebacker produced a sack, an interception and solid coverage on Colts tight end Coby Fleener for most of the contest. All this after he was asked to replace Brandon Spikes, who surprisingly was put on injured reserve in a move that reportedly had more to do with Belichick losing patience with his former starter than any real health problems.

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