DENVER BRONCOS (2-2)
at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2-2)
Kickoff: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EDT
Line: New England -6½, Total: 52
The Peyton Manning-Tom Brady rivalry resumes Sunday afternoon when Denver visits New England, a matchup of 2-2 teams coming off lopsided victories.
While Bill Belichick and the Patriots defense once had Manning’s number, Manning (with the Colts) has beaten them in five of his past seven meetings, SU and ATS. Manning is coming off his best game with the Broncos, going 30-for-38 for 338 yards, 3 TD and no turnovers in a win over Oakland. The Pats offense looked human before Brady and Company exploded for 45 second-half points in last week’s win in Buffalo. Wes Welker was worked back into the game plan, and the Pats’ 52 points came despite two lost fumbles and two missed field goals.
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Although Peyton Manning hasn’t had great success in Foxboro, he has exploded in his past three visits to Gillette Stadium, completing 86-of-125 passes (69%) for 1,043 yards (348 YPG), 9 TD and 5 INT. He’s also coming into this game with great confidence after his Week 4 explosion, where he didn’t take a single sack. Although Manning got all the headlines, the running game was also outstanding last week with 165 rushing yards, including 112 on just 19 carries (5.9 YPC) by Willis McGahee. Denver’s defense has been much improved under new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, allowing just 88 rushing YPG (9th in NFL) and 221 passing YPG (13th in league). Last year, the team allowed 126 rushing YPG (22nd in NFL) and 232 passing YPG (18th in league). Houston is the only team that has rushed for more than 75 yards against the Broncos this year, and is the only club that gained at least 210 yards on them through the air.
Brady is 8-4 all-time versus Manning, including a 2-1 record in the playoffs. Last season, Brady lit up Denver in the postseason, throwing for 363 yards and six touchdowns. He also burned the Broncos for 320 passing yards and 3 total TD in a 41-23 win in the mile-high altitude last December. Last week, Brady orchestrated six straight touchdown drives in Buffalo. New England had great balance on offense, as both RBs Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden surpassed 100 yards rushing and WR Wes Welker and TE Rob Gronkowski had more than 100 receiving yards against the Bills. Although New England’s pass defense has allowed a whopping 722 passing yards over the past two weeks, the team has forced 11 turnovers on the season, including six in Buffalo.