Tale of the Tape: Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have been dueling for a dozen years - and their latest encounter should be just as entertaining as the previous ones.
Two of the greatest quarterbacks of their generation will meet for the 14th time in their careers Sunday night when Manning leads his Denver Broncos into Foxboro for a date with Brady and the Patriots. The Broncos share top spot in the AFC West with a 9-1 record, while the Patriots lead the AFC East at 7-3.
Read the breakdown in our betting tale of the tape:
The Broncos' offensive attack has been unprecedented through the first 11 weeks of the season, averaging better than 455 total yards per game. Manning has the pass attack firing at peak efficiency, leading the NFL at 350 yards per game while throwing 34 touchdown passes against just six interceptions. The running game has been surprisingly stout, as well, sitting just 21st in total yards at a pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry but racking up 13 TDs - third-most in the league.
After a glacial start to the season, Brady finally has the New England offense gaining some traction. The Patriots have moved into the middle of the pack in total passing yards (2,371), with Brady throwing 14 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. The run game has been even more impressive, ranked ninth in total yardage (1,269) with 4.3 yards per carry and 11 scores to date. Their 4.3 yards-per-carry average ranks them 11th.
For all the attention being paid to Manning's impressive campaign, the Broncos' pass defense is among the worst in football through the first 10 games. Denver has surrendered the fifth-most yards through the air (2,791) while allowing 18 touchdowns - though Denver has punished opposing quarterbacks' mistakes by snagging 13 interceptions. The Denver run defense is as good as it gets, limiting foes to the fourth-fewest yards (927) on just 3.7 yards per carry.
New England has been ravaged by injuries, but the subsequent lack of depth hasn't really shown in the team's defensive numbers. The Patriots have allowed the 10th-fewest passing yards (2,292) but has been victimized for 16 touchdowns while grabbing 12 interceptions. New England has surrendered the eighth-most rushing yards (1,257) on a generous 4.3 yards per carry, but has limited the opposition to just four touchdowns on the ground.
Denver is one of two teams with both a kickoff-return and a punt-return touchdown, sitting first in the NFL in kick-return average (29.1) and 10th in punt-return average (10.3). That leaves the Broncos as a plus in both categories, allowing 24.6 yards per kick return and 9.6 yards per punt return. Kicker Matt Prater is among the least-used starting kickers in the league, but had been perfect before missing a 52-yarder in last week's win over Kansas City.
New England's kick-return game is subpar (23rd, 21.9 yards per attempt) but the punt-return game has been solid (eighth, 11.6 ypa). The Patriots are ahead on both fronts, limiting foes to just 20.1 yards per kick-return chance and 9.3 yards per punt-return opportunity. Veteran kicker Stephen Gostkowski has been the anti-Prater, facing a whopping 25 field-goal opportunities and making all but one of them; he was 2-for-2 in Monday night's loss to Carolina.
"It's pretty well-documented, my respect for Tom as a quarterback. The way he prepares, just the way he is better each season than the one before." - Manning
"I don't have [to] play against him. I think that's the thing. It's more of the defense that plays against him. You realize that when you play a good team, another good quarterback, that you're going to have to score a lot of points." - Brady