There was no rivalry over the last decade more compelling than Peyton Manning and the Colts versus Tom Brady and the Patriots. The Colts and Patriots were battling for AFC supremacy each year, with the Patriots coming out on top most of the time. Over that period of time, Gillette Stadium became a house of horrors for Peyton Manning. To be fair, not many teams ever beat New England in Foxboro, but you expect a little more out of Peyton Manning.
The Broncos are coming off a game where they just dominated the Oakland Raiders on all fronts. Denver was able to run the ball effectively and keep Oakland off balance all game. New England is going to present the same kind of match up problems, that Atlanta presented earlier this year. The Broncos did not fare well in that game.
Keys to the Game: Run the ball. I find myself saying this every week for Denver, but it is true. This offense is built to run the ball, and there is no better deterrent to the explosive Patriots offense, than keeping them off the field. Yes, Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, but he is even better with a running game. I think that Manning gets away from the running game much too early and you cannot afford to do that against this New England offense. It is imperative that Denver keeps possession of the ball.
Put pressure on Tom Brady. When Denver faced Atlanta earlier this year the Broncos defense put absolutely no pressure on Matt Ryan and he proceeded to carve their defense up. The biggest trouble for Denver is that much of their pass rush is artificial. They have to create it with blitzes. The defensive line does not create pressure on their own and blitzing the likes of Tom Brady is a dicey proposition.
Make a play on special teams. Whether it be a blocked punt or big return the Broncos are going to need a big play out of special teams Sunday. Denver has not been able to get a big return out of Jim Leonhard or Omar Bolden yet. This would be the right week for one of the those players to step up and impact the game.
Injuries: The Broncos remain very healthy and have no new injury news to update. Dan Koppen will be starting at center, but that has been known since last Sunday.
New England will be without Julian Edelman, and safety Steve Gregory. From what has been reported, it appears that Aaron Hernandez will be questionable up until game time. Usually when a man is questionable for the Patriots he is really 100% ready to play, but we will see.
Final Analysis: The Patriots have yet to impress me, but neither has Denver for that matter. I just do not think that the Broncos have the horses to keep up with New England and I have no faith that Peyton Manning will stick with the run game. Tom Brady will best Peyton Manning again, which he should be used to by now. New England 33 Denver 24.