Everything you need to know about the AFC championship game

The Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots meet Sunday with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake. Here's what you need to know about the AFC championship game:

1. If the Patriots win, they'll play in the Super Bowl for the eighth time, tying Pittsburgh and Dallas for the most Super Bowl appearances all time. If the Broncos win, they'll tie the Patriots for third place with seven appearances each. No team in NFL history has lost more Super Bowls than the Pats and Broncos (four apiece).

2. The Patriots have a 7-2 record in conference championship games. The Broncos are 6-2 all time in the same situation. 

3. The Patriots beat the Broncos 34-31 after an incredible second-half comeback in November. However, a lot has changed since that game. The Broncos are now without Von Miller, Kevin Vickerson, Derek Wolfe and Chris Harris, but they now have Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey. On offense, they have Julius Thomas back after he sat out that November game. The Pats are now without Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Spikes, but they'll have Steve Gregory (who didn't play last time) and LeGarrette Blount (who has become an impact player since the last meeting). 

4. The Broncos are 15-3 at home with Peyton Manning at quarterback. Only the Seahawks have been better at home during that stretch. Their average margin of victory at Mile High has been 14.9 points. The Pats are only 10-6 on the road during that time period, but their per-game points differential average of plus-9.6 is the highest in the NFL. 

5. Despite having a record-breaking offense, the Broncos turned it over 26 times during the regular season, which was higher than the league average. The Patriots had 29 takeaways, ranking 10th in the NFL. Denver did a decent job taking the ball away with 26 forced turnovers, but the Pats gave it away just 20 times. 

6. The biggest loss for the Broncos is Chris Harris, the cornerback who suffered a knee injury last week. Harris did a fantastic job against Danny Amendola in the last meeting, allowing just a single four-yard catch on four targets. They're used to life without Von Miller, but Miller had his best game of the year with two sacks and six pressures in Week 12 against New England.

7. The biggest loss for the Patriots is Rob Gronkowski, who had seven catches, 90 yards and a touchdown in that Week 12 matchup. The Pats are without their top five receivers from last year, including Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. 

8. This is the 15th all-time meeting between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Manning has beaten Brady on just four of those 14 occasions. However, Manning and the Colts beat Brady and the Pats in the 2006 AFC championship game. 

9. Brady and Manning rank in the top seven all time in terms of passes completed, passer rating, passing yards, passing touchdowns, game-winning drives and fourth-quarter comebacks. Brady has the highest winning percentage in NFL history (.775), but Manning ranks one spot ahead of him in second on the all-time wins list with a 167-148 edge. 

10. Brady vs. Manning, on a per-game basis: 67%, 243 yards, 1.9 TD, 0.9 INT, 7.4 YPA, 96.6 rating. Manning vs. Brady, same deal: 62%, 284 yards, 2.1 TD, 1.4 INT, 7.1 YPA, 85.6 rating.

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers — a passion that won’t die until he’s in them again. Based in Toronto, he’s worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at CBSSports.com, Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.