The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots are the favorites in the AFC. In Week 12, the two teams will face off on "Sunday Night Football."
Last week, the Broncos solidified themselves as the team to beat in the conference and, likely, the NFL. They easily defeated the then-unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs, improving their record to 9-1 and taking hold of the No.1 seed.
The Patriots lost one of their more difficult tests of the 2013 season, falling to the Carolina Panthers on "Monday Night Football." The game ended in controversy when the referees failed to call what appeared to be an obvious pass interference in the end zone on the final play. Even as the loss dropped them to 7-3, the Patriots remain as the second favorite to reach the Super Bowl from the AFC, according to Bovada.lv.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have gone head-to-head in almost every season. Last year was the first time they played each other with Manning wearing a Denver uniform. Brady’s teams have won most of the matchups, and 2012 was no different. The Broncos quarterback threw for 337 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, but his club still lost by 10 points.
The 2013 contest between the two rivals is expected to go differently. While the Broncos are on the road this time around, the betting line has them favored by 2.5 points. Denver will likely go through the entire season without ever being an underdog.
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In the matchup last year, New England was able to score with a dominant rushing attack. Brady didn’t make many mistakes, but it was Stevan Ridley who made most of the big plays. He ran 28 times for 151 yards, including one score. It won’t be easy for Ridley to have a repeat performance. In nine games, he’s surpassed the 100-yard mark just once. Denver’s rush defense is also one of the best in football. Only three other teams allow fewer than the 92.7 yards that they give up per game on the ground.
New England’s offense isn’t nearly as explosive as it was a year ago. They rank eighth with 25.4 points per game, while their passing attack (16th) and total yards gained (11th) put them closer to the middle of the pack. Wes Welker, who accounted for almost half of the receiving yards for the Patriots in last season’s visit to Denver, now plays for the Broncos.
Adding Welker has helped put Manning on pace to break several single-season quarterback records. He leads the team with 61 catches and gives the future Hall of Famer three Pro Bowl-caliber wide receivers, along with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Welker’s status for the game is in question after suffering a concussion against the Chiefs.
However, the Patriots are preparing as if their old teammate will be on the field.
"I've been around [Welker] long enough to know what he's all about," Brady told WEEI sports radio. "He loves playing football, and if there's a chance for him to play, especially coming back here, he's definitely going to be out there. I've got no question about that."
Kickoff Time: 8:30 PM Eastern Time
TV Channel: NBC
Online Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Betting Odds: Denver -2.5, 54.5
Prediction: The Patriots have the advantage by playing at Gillette Stadium, where they are undefeated. The Broncos have been dominant all season, but much less so on the road. Away from their home fans, Denver is 3-1, with two of their wins coming by one score. New England will keep it close, but Manning and the Broncos offense are in a class of their own. The defending AFC East champs are a step below the elite teams, and have been exposed in losses to top competition (Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers).
Predicted Score: Denver 33, New England 27