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Nantz, Simms Excited for AFC Championship

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --When the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots take the field Sunday for the AFC Championship Game, CBS Sports' Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will be in the broadcast booth.

It's the seventh Broncos game that Nantz and Simms have called for CBS this season.

The previous six came when Denver played at the New York Giants, at the Dallas Cowboys, at the San Diego Chargers, at the Kansas City Chiefs, versus the Tennessee Titans and versus Chargers again in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The common theme in all those games? The Broncos won.

"Undefeated, that is not by my name too often, so I don't know what's with that," Simms joked about the Broncos' 6-0 record when he calls their games.

Nantz and and Simms held a conference call Tuesday afternoon to discuss the AFC Championship Game, and the two announcers were joined by CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus and analyst Boomer Esiason.

Their excitement for the game was palpable.

"Not that network executives ever root for specific teams, but at the beginning of the year, if you had asked, I think, many fans, certainly a lot of viewers and probably some network executives, what the ideal matchup would be in the AFC Championship Game, I think a lot of people would have said exactly the game that we have," McManus said. "Arguably this generation's greatest two quarterbacks meeting again in the playoffs – and who knows how many more times this is going to happen in the future? So I think we should all just savor this opportunity and we are thrilled to be there to document it."

"I think everyone on the call just can't wait to get to Denver and wait for the ball to be kicked to start our coverage of the AFC Championship Game."

While there are countless storylines heading into Sunday's showdown with a Super Bowl on the line, the main one on everyone's mind is the 15th career matchup between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

"This is tantamount to Ali-Frazier one more time. This is Palmer-Nicklaus. This is Bird-Magic," Nantz said. "Again, I'm not trying to create some sort of synthetic drama here, this is what it is. This is as big as it gets and we're going to savor it because you don't know how many more times you're ever going to get again."

This will be the fourth time Manning and Brady have met in the postseason.

In each of the previous three occasions, the winner of that game has gone on to win the Super Bowl.

Nantz recalled the AFC Championship Game that Manning's Colts won against the Patriots as proof that when Manning and Brady square off, it's often the biggest game of the year.

"Seven years ago this weekend we had Brady-Manning and Phil and I were there to call it in Indianapolis," Nantz said. "It was a gigantic atmosphere behind that one too and the game of course didn't let us down. It was down to the wire, the one Indianapolis came back from 18 down in the first half to win it on its way to winning the Super Bowl. The game was so big, the Super Bowl after it was a win over Chicago for the Colts, that really when people talk about that year that Peyton won the Super Bowl, they don't talk about the game in Miami. They talk about the win over Brady in the AFC Championship Game. If took on a life was just as big if not bigger."

This season, the Broncos and Patriots have already met once. New England defeated Denver in overtime in Week 12 at Gillette Stadium.

Both Nantz and Simms predicted that Wes Welker could be a difference-maker in the game this time around.

Nantz believes that Welker will be "highly motivated" going against his old team with "a chance to try to atone for what happened in the earlier matchup this year."

Simms went so far as to say that Welker could give the Broncos some hints on how the Patriots will be preparing to face a high-powered offense like Denver's.

In addition to Welker, Esiason said he's been impressed by how the younger receivers have stepped their game up with Manning at quarterback.

"I've watched it with the players here in Denver – how they've all gotten better, sharper, smarter and more into the game," Simms agreed. "They've become real, true pros. And sometimes that is the hardest thing to learn, being in professional football, just to be a pro and what you do. He is a great teacher for players and situations like that."

Now, with a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII on the line, Simms said he doesn't buy that Sunday's game should define how either quarterback's career is viewed.

"Somebody said their legacy – both of them -- is at stake in this game, at this time," he said. "I don't care what either one of them does in this game, it will never change what I think of them. So if one of them goes out and has the worst game of his career and is the sole reason why they lose, it will not bring them down one single bit in my eyes. They've done so much for the league and the teams and themselves there is nothing that can diminish it."

Kickoff on Sunday is scheduled for 1 p.m. MST.

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