It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but the Patriots walked off the Gillette Stadium field winners over the Bills Monday night – and that makes them a perfect 10-0 heading into Sunday night’s game in Denver (8:30 p.m. kickoff, NBC).
Tom Brady will look to make it 11-0 against Peyton Mann- check that, Brock Osweiler and the Denver Broncos.
That’s right, folks. It appears we have reached the end of an era, as the Brady-Manning rivalry has come to an end – at least for this season – with the struggling (and allegedly injured) Manning being replaced by Osweiler.
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Sunday would have marked the 16th time that Brady and Manning started opposite each other. Brady is 8-3 against Manning in the regular season and 2-2 against him in the postseason.
It’s a sad day for the rivalry, but Patriots fans have to at least be happy that it’s Brady still performing at the top of his game.
Here are three things to look for:
1. That Denver defense
Everybody loves to make it a matchup between the quarterbacks, but neither QB watches film of one another leading up to the game. They’re watching the opposing defense. And what Brady is going to see is one of the best defenses in the NFL. Denver is in a playoff position because of their defense, not their offense. Denver leads the NFL in yards allowed per game, at 284.3 – a good 20 yards less than the second-ranked Seahawks. That includes a pass defense allowing just 190.6 yards per game. Add in the fact that half of Brady’s receivers are injured, and this is most likely going to be the offense’s biggest test of the regular season.
2. Brock who?
One of the perks of playing against a Peyton Manning team is the fact Pats fans usually get to see the “Manning face” in the final minutes of the game. You know the one. But with Osweiler getting the start, it won’t happen this time. Osweiler made his first career start last week on the road against the Bears, throwing for 250 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The Broncos offense looked different than with Manning at QB, but it also looked better as a whole. Osweiller got the tight ends Owen Daniels and Vernon Davis involved (137 combined receiving yards) as well as the running backs Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson (161 rushing yards). We already know what Demaryius Thomas is capable of, and Emmanuel Sanders (high ankle sprain) is hopeful to return.
3. Home field
Yes, it’s still November, but a win in Denver could not only clinch the AFC East (an inevitability anyways) but would also give New England a four-game lead over the Broncos for one of the two top seeds in the AFC. The Pats are gunning for the No. 1 overall seed, but essentially locking up a first round bye so early is impressive.