3 best defenses Peyton Manning faced in postseason

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Doug Pensinger / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Peyton Manning enters Sunday's AFC Championship Game hoping to lead the Denver Broncos to their second Super Bowl appearance in three years.

Over the course of Manning's illustrious career, the five-time MVP's faced a number of defenses that rank among the best units in history.

Here are three of the best defenses the Broncos quarterback has already matched up against during his postseason career:

2003 New England Patriots

The 2003 AFC Championship Game marked the first time Tom Brady and Peyton Manning played each other in the postseason. In a 24-14 defeat, Manning submitted one of the worst games of his career.

New England finished that season with a league-best 14-2 record and the best scoring defense in the league, allowing a sublime 14.8 points per game. Rodney Harrison, Ty Law, and Richard Seymour were named first-team All-Pros, Tedy Bruschi was selected second-team All-Pro, and Willie McGinest was chosen for the Pro Bowl, illustrating the club's tremendous depth.

Manning crumbled against the Patriots' elite unit in their postseason encounter. The Colts quarterback was sacked four times - unheralded defensive end Jarvis Green leading the way with 2.5 takedowns - and held to 23-of-47 passing for 237 yards, a touchdown, and four interceptions. The Patriots would go on to win Super Bowl XXXVIII, their second of three Super Bowl wins over a four-year span.

2006 Chicago Bears

Two years removed from a 5-11 season, the 2006 Chicago Bears jumped out to a NFC-best 13-3 record, largely on the strength of their defense.

Chicago finished third in scoring defense, allowing 15.9 points per game while forcing opponents into a league-high 44 turnovers. The Bears' front seven proved impenetrable, and the linebacker trio of Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Brendon Ayanbadejo was selected to the Pro Bowl, along with defensive tackle Tommie Harris.

Super Bowl XLI represents the pinnacle of Manning's career, as the Colts prevailed with a 29-17 victory. Manning captured Super Bowl XLI MVP honors after going 25-of-38 for 247 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, getting sacked once.

2013 Seattle Seahawks

Super Bowl XLVIII pitted Manning's Denver Broncos, who scored the most points in NFL history, against a Seahawks defense that ranked atop most defensive categories: first in scoring defense (14.4 points per game) and yards per game (273.6) while recording an NFL-best 39 takeaways.

Seattle's prodigious secondary boasted first-team All-Pros in Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, while Kam Chancellor captured second-team honors.

Still, many believed it would be the closest Super Bowl ever - until the Seahawks put on a clinic.

Seattle routed Denver 43-8 in one of the greatest performances in sporting history, completely outclassing Manning and company from the opening snap. Trailing 15-0 in the second quarter, Manning threw an egregious interception to linebacker Malcolm Smith, who returned the ball 69 yards for a touchdown en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. Manning was held to 280 yards passing with a touchdown and two picks while the Seahawks cemented their place in history among the all-time best defenses.