Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, two of the most iconic quarterbacks in NFL history, will meet for the 13th time when the New England Patriots host theDenver Broncos on Sunday. Brady is 8-4 head-to-head against Manning – all during Manning’s 14 seasons with Indianapolis.
Manning, who is fourth all-time with 143 wins, and Brady (fifth, 126) did what they do best last week – lead their teams to resounding victories. The Patriots erased a 14-point deficit and scored 45 points in the second half en route to a 52-28 win at Buffalo, while the Broncos crushed Oakland 37-6 as Manning excelled in his first taste of the bitter rivalry.
Denver Broncos(2-2): Denver has already faced three playoff teams from 2011, including two of the three undefeated teams this season (Houston, Atlanta) – and now takes on the defending AFC champion. If the Broncos are to stop the No. 1 offense at 438.3 yards per game, they must get huge performances from pass-rushing specialists Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller and cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter.
Denver’s chances will also be enhanced if its offensive balance continues. Running back Willis McGahee, who leads active players in 100-yard rushing games with 32, had 112 last week and Manning threw for 338 yards, including touchdowns to a tight end, a wide receiver and a running back.
New England Patriots(2-2): New England last week became the first team in NFL history with a 300-yard passer (Brady), two 100-yard rushers (Brandon Bolden, Stevan Ridley) and a pair of 100-yard receivers (Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski) – but the No. 1 offense at 33.5 points per game will face a stiffer challenge in the NFL’s No. 7 defense.
The Patriots beat the Broncos twice last season – 41-23 in Denver during the regular season and 45-10 in the AFC divisional playoffs – as Brady threw 10 touchdowns against only one interception in those games. New England’s defense has six interceptions and five fumble recoveries; the Patriots are second in the NFL with a plus-8 turnover margin. Brady is 2-5 against Denver in the regular season and 1-1 in the postseason, the only team against which he has a losing record.
1. This is the second time in NFL history two QBs with 125-plus victories will meet. Denver and John Elway (148) played Miami and Dan Marino (147) in 1998. Brett Favre is the all-time leader with 186 victories.
2. The Patriots and Broncos both must buck the odds to make the playoffs: Teams that start 2-2 have made the postseason only 35.3 percent of the time since the NFL expanded to 12 playoff teams in 1990.
3. All-Pro TE Gronkowski (hip) did not practice Wednesday, but was questionable when he had five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo.