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Jan 20, 2016 7:38 PM

Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, a rivalry with meaning, national headlines

FOXBORO, Mass. - The New England Patriots are gearing up for their fifth straight trip to the AFC Championship.

It's a big week with a conference title and trip to SuperBowl 50 on the line. This could not be scripted any better with one of the best rivalries in sports featuring two of the greatest quarterbacks. Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning meet in their 17th game, a championship; players on both sides fully understand that this is much more than a big game.

"It's been pretty cool," said Patriots' defensive back, Devin McCourty on the rivalry between the two quarterbacks. "You go into it, you're just playing football and you're not thinking about it, but after each game you look back at that...Being on the defensive side, it's our goal to make sure Brady looks better at the end of the game."

Peyton Manning was injured this season when the Patriots lost to Denver in overtime in November. Sunday could be Peyton Manning's last game before he retires, writing a final chapter to this rivalry that dates back to Brady's first NFL win which was back in 2001.

Overall, Brady has had the advantage, with 11 wins in the first 16 meetings. With completion percentage and quarterback rating, Brady has the advantage. In championship play, Manning is 2-1, and perfect at home. While he's not the healthiest, and his game, strategy and team have changed over the years, Manning's experience is invaluable, and Bill Belichick won't take anything for granted.

"There isn't a player off our team that I have any respect for more than Peyton Manning. So his preparation, consistency, his skills, I would never, ever, ever underestimate him under any circumstances," said coach Belichick.

AFC Championship kickoff is 3pm on Sunday, in Denver, a place where many teams have struggled. In the Brady era, the Patriots have gone 2-6 in the Mile High City.

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