The New England Patriots (10-0) will travel to face the Denver Broncos (8-2) at Sports Authority Field at Mile High this Sunday night.
First-year Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak announced earlier in the week that quarterback Peyton Manning will sit out for the second consecutive game as he continues to rehab foot and rib injuries.
This marks the third time since the 2008 season that Manning and Tom Brady won’t play head-to-head. Barring a potential playoff matchup, last year will likely have been the last time the future hall-of-fame quarterbacks will meet. With Manning in his 18th season and Brady in his 16th, each player is closer to retirement.
Manning has completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 2,180 yards, nine touchdowns, and a mind-boggling 17 interceptions in arguably the worst season in his career. Manning’s injury will thrust fourth-year backup quarterback Brock Osweiler into the starting lineup against the Patriots. Osweiler has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 396 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in two games played this season.
Brady is the leading candidate for his third MVP award after completing 66 percent of his passes for 3,310 yards, 25 touchdowns and four interceptions in just 10 games. The Patriots offense faces an uphill battle against the No. 1 defense however with three of their top offensive weapons sitting out due to injuries.
The Patriots offense suffered a huge blow after news that Julian Edelman will miss six-to-eight weeks with a broken bone in his foot. Receiver Aaron Dobson will join Dion Lewis on season-ending injured reserve after he suffered a torn ACL against the Buffalo Bills last week. Veteran receiver Danny Amendola has been a limited participant in practice this week after he sprained his knee in a non-contact injury last week against the Buffalo Bills. He is day-to-day and will likely be a game-time decision to play this week.
The Patriots are 2-5 against the Broncos on the road, with their last appearance being the 26-16 AFC Championship loss in the 2013 postseason. The Patriots can clinch the AFC East division with a win Sunday night. A loss would drop them to a 10-1 record, but they would still hold at least a one-game advantage over the 8-2 Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC race for the No. 1 seed.
The Patriots defense hopes to force Osweiler into making errant throws and turnovers and will try to help pick up the slack of the major injuries that has limited their offense. They must limit big plays, keep Osweiler in the pocket and force turnovers and punts.
The Patriots defense has been solid this season, despite losses of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and linebackers Akeem Ayers and Johnathan Casillas. The defense ranks in the top-5 in total yards (3rd), rushing yards (1st), first downs allowed (5th), and sacks (4th), with 32 sacks this season. The defense also improved to first in the NFL with 18 points allowed per game.
The Denver Broncos announced that veteran defensive end Demarcus Ware will miss his third consecutive game with a back injury, which should be a relief for the Patriots’ depleted offensive line. If the Patriots can protect Brady, they could take advantage of the loss to the Broncos’ pass rush with Ware sitting out.