The New England Patriots will be wading into uncharted waters when they visit the top-seeded Denver Broncos for the AFC Championship Game on Sunday.
Bill Belichick‘s squad has been favored in each of its last 11 playoff games, but that streak is expected to end this weekend. Early lines have the Peyton Manning-led Broncos as six-point favorites, according to Pregame.com (via Pro Football Talk), which would make the Patriots playoff underdogs for the first time since 2006.
The last postseason game in which New England was not favored coincidentally also was the last time the Patriots faced Manning in the playoffs. The quarterback led the Indianapolis Colts to a 38-34 win in the 2006 AFC Championship Game en route to his only Super Bowl title. Indianapolis was a three-point favorite in that game.
Denver also was favored over New England during its Week 12 matchup earlier this season, the first time the Patriots had been underdogs at home since 2005. New England won that game 34-31 in overtime after fighting back from a 24-0 halftime deficit.
The Patriots defeated Indianapolis 43-22 on Saturday to earn their third straight trip to the AFC title game, and the Broncos held off a late San Diego Chargers rally to punch their ticket with a 24-17 win the following day.