Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will wage a battle for the 14th time in their sure-fire Hall of Fame careers as the New England Patriots host the Denver Broncos Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
Manning has a career 6-11 record against the Patriots, with only four other teams able to boast of a winning record against him. In three playoff games with Indianapolis, the Patriots also have picked Manning off six times and only allowed two touchdown passes.
Still, the four-time MVP has dominated the competition this season, with Denver now holding the AFC’s top seed after toppling previously undefeated Kansas City last week.
Denver’s offensive line diligently protected Manning from the NFL’s best pass rush. They didn’t give up a single sack or quarterback hit after surrendering eight sacks in the previous three games.
In contrast, Brady’s struggled with some of his new receivers, and the offense didn’t really click this season until tight end Rob Gronkowski returned in Week Seven. Since then, Brady has thrown six of his 14 touchdowns, and the Pats have averaged more than 32 points a game.
New England may not be fully recovered from their Monday night 24-20 loss to Carolina that set the league abuzz on whether penalties should be reviewable. On the game’s final play, Gronkowski was tied up for Carolina’s Luke Kuechly in the end zone, but officials ruled it wasn’t interference because the ball was underthrown and uncatchable.
The Patriots are still atop the AFC East at 7-3, and could snatch the No. 2 seed from Indianapolis with a victory.
Stopping Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas will be key to any New England win. Thomas has ripped off two straight 100-yard receiving yard games and five of his nine touchdowns have come in the last four games.
The Pats boast the 12th ranked secondary in the league, but starting cornerbacks Aquib Talib and Alfonso Dennard, along with strong safety Steve Gregory, are all listed as questionable.
Top Denver corner Champ Bailey was limited all week in practice once again, making him questionable. The Pro Bowler has missed much of the season due to a foot injury, and his lack of leadership on the field could be a reason Denver’s secondary is 28th in the NFL.
Tight end Julius Thomas’s status is also listed as questionable due to a knee injury. Thomas leads the Broncos with 10 receiving touchdowns this season.
Betting Odds: Denver favored by 2 points.
Over/Under: 54 points
TV Channel: NBC
Live Stream Info: SNF All Access
Prediction: New England 34, Denver 30