The Brady-Manning rivalry will get most of the attention surrounding Sunday night's Broncos-Patriots game in Foxboro (8:30 pm ET, NBC), but what intrigues us is the match-up of the top seed in the AFC against the three seed; this game might help decide where the upcoming AFC championship game will be played.
Be sure to take a look at our NFL Picks: Week 12 Betting Odds Report.
Denver just beat previously unbeaten Kansas City Sunday night 27-17, covering as 7.5-point favorites at home. So the 9-1 Broncos now own the No. 1 seed in the AFC; they're a tie-breaker up on the Chiefs, and two games up on both the Patriots and Colts.
Denver's lone loss this season came at Indianapolis a few weeks ago, a 39-33 decision in which the Broncos were held to 64 yards rushing and committed three turnovers.
Denver has been favored in every game this season, seven times by more than a touchdown; the Broncos are 6-3-1 against those numbers.
Tough Time in Carolina
New England has lost three games this season; by a touchdown at AFC North-leading Cincinnati; by a field goal in overtime at the Jets; and Monday night at Carolina, when a possible end zone-pass interference flag on the last play was picked up, in a 24-20 defeat.
The Patriots took a lead Monday night with six minutes to go, but fell victim to some Cam Newton magic.
New England actually overcame an early 10-0 deficit to take that lead, and all-in-all played well, and gave a very good effort. Can they do it again Sunday night?
The Patriots have been an underdog twice already this season; they're 1-1 SU and ATS in those games, and 5-5 ATS for the season.
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Broncos-Patriots: The Line
Shortly after the end of the New England-Carolina game Monday night many online sportsbooks were listing Denver as a 2.5- and 3-point road favorite for Sunday night, with the total offered at right around 55.5. As of Tuesday afternoon the Broncos could be gotten at as low as -1 at some NFL odds shops, while the Pats could be found at +3 at others.
Brady-Manning: The Rivalry
Manning has all those great numbers and MVP awards and a ring, but Brady has the three rings and a 9-4 edge on Manning in head-to-head match-ups. Of course, most of those games took place when Peyton was a Colt, but the Patriots beat the Broncos and Manning last year 31-21 in a game that wasn't as close as that score might indicate.
New England led that game 31-7 late in the third quarter, before allowing a couple of meaningless Denver touchdowns.
Manning's numbers were great for that game, but most of that came in garbage time. Denver only had the ball for 24 minutes, as the Patriots ran the ball 54 times, playing keep-a-way from the Broncos offense.
That's probably the best approach to defending Manning; keep him on the bench.
Denver WR Wes Welker suffered a concussion Sunday night and is uncertain to play this Sunday night. We'll get an update on his status later in the week.
Also, TE Julius Thomas, who's caught 10 TD passes from Manning already this season, hurt a knee Sunday, but early reports indicate he'll play this Sunday.
New England, meanwhile, is playing two rookies in place of DL Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork, who are both out for the year.
Catch Us LaterWe'll do a little more homework in the coming days, and offer up our NFL picks on both the side and total on this game. So stay tuned.