Is Tom Brady a crybaby? Probably, but no worse than any other NFL quarterback of his stature. That’s because NFL rules skew towards protecting quarterbacks.

Does Rob Gronkowski get away with pushing off? Probably, but so does every other big-name NFL wide receiver. That’s because NFL rules skew towards punishing defensive backs on pass plays.

And do the Broncos need to hit Gronkowski low in order to tackle him? Absolutely. New England’s 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end is as strong as an ox and he runs through arm tackles.

The back and forth between Broncos players and Patriots players (via the media) is nothing more than white noise. Everyone already knows these teams don’t generally like each other. That’s to be expected of two franchises that continually battle for AFC supremacy. The jabs back and forth are simply fun sound bites, nothing more. There is no need to waste time diagnosing who said what and effect it’ll have on Sunday’s game.

There are real battles in this game that will determine the outcome – that are much more than verbal sparring. Both teams will have to answer the bell in their own way.

Wade Phillips’ defense has the toughest task ahead of them. His defense’s ability to shut down Brady will in all likelihood decide the game.

The defensive line has to make Brady uncomfortable first and foremost. The Patriots offensive line has been battling injuries all season but has still managed to give handsome Tom just enough time to be extremely efficient. The key word there is time because Brady doesn’t need much of it.

Josh McDaniels’ offense is built around getting the ball out of Brady’s hands quickly. This puts the pressure on the defensive ends to beat their man on the first step. Bull rushes rarely work against the Patriots because plays develop so fast. Von Miller and Shane Ray are two of the quickest guys off the line of scrimmage in the NFL. If they can’t find their way into the backfield with the speed rush, Brady’s jersey is going to stay clean.

That said, getting to Brady will require more than one defensive unit. It’ll have to be a team effort and Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and Bradley Roby are going to have to help.

They must force Brady off of his first read. If he is able to make one read downfield and throw the ball, it doesn’t matter how quick Miller and Ray are, the ball will be long gone before they can get there. Denver’s cornerbacks need to be physical with the Patriots receivers at the line and not allow them to get free releases. Communication between the linebackers and cornerbacks will also be vital. The Broncos must avoid getting caught in the pick plays and crossing routes where the Patriots make a living. Then, the biggest task will be slowing down Gronkowski. If Phillips is thinking outside of the box this assignment should fall into the hands of Talib, Denver’s biggest, strongest corner.

If Denver manages to keep the Brady Bunch in check, they’ll still need to put points on the board. The key to doing that is simple, Denver has to be able to run the football.

It’s no secret that Peyton Manning isn’t the same player he was the last time Denver played in an AFC Championship. And, it’s no secret what Gary Kubiak wants to do to reduce the burden on an aging Manning. The ground game is Denver’s key to offensive success.

Bill Belichick knows this and his defense’s sole mission is going to be stopping C.J. Anderson and the rushing attack, putting a ton of pressure on the offensive line.

It’s scary to think that the Broncos’ offensive proficiency is going to hinge on a unit that’s been subpar all season. If Denver can run the ball, they’ll be able to control the clock and keep Brady on the sidelines. If they can’t, Manning will be forced to outthink Belichick’s defensive schemes; something he hasn’t had much success doing.

Can Miller and Ray get to Brady quickly?

Will Denver’s defensive backs be able lock down Brady’s primary reads?

How will Phillips deal with containing Gronkowski?

And, will the Denver Broncos be able to run the football against a defense that knows they have to?

These are the important questions that surround the AFC Championship because the answers will ultimately decide the outcome. Everything else is just white noise; try not to get distracted.