Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are two of the best quarterbacks in history. Manning will face his longtime AFC rival for the first time since joining the Denver Broncos, and he will do it in style with a massive statement game against the New England Patriots in Week 5
The Manning of old was back in full swing in the Denver Broncos' 37-6 rout of the lowly Oakland Raiders at home. The greatest regular season quarterback of all-time will have another vintage performance on the road in taking down a Patriots team riding a huge wave of momentum.
Other than those three interceptions in the first half of Monday Night Football in Week 2, Manning hasn't given the ball away. Not only that, but it's well known that he didn't start the season at 100 percent after the multiple neck surgeries.
It was going to take a while for Manning to get back to full strength, and his arm appeared livelier than it had all season against the Silver and Black, as he threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns.
The Raiders secondary is just 26th against the pass, which diminishes Manning's phenomenal recent outing, but the Patriots' is just as suspect, ranking just ahead of Denver's AFC West rivals. Oh, and Manning gets to match wits with Pats free safety Steve Gregory, which may be the biggest mismatch of the game.
Manning will be able to look Gregory off, and take advantage of the size of his top two receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
One other distinct advantage that Manning has is a tight end in Jacob Tamme, whom he's been familiar with in his entire career. That position has been the weakness of the Patriot defense in 2012.
New England's opponents in the first two games wound up with their tight ends leading the team in receiving at the end of the day. This trend was bucked against Baltimore in Week 3, but in Buffalo on Sunday, Bills tight end Scott Chandler gashed the Pats for two long TDs.
As this play shows, perhaps the lack of speed by middle linebacker Brandon Spikes should have been a valid concern, as Chandler badly beats him down the seam. He may have thought about jumping the underneath route, but the indecision has been characteristic of Spikes and other Pats linebackers. They have been stout against the run in 2012, but continue to be questionable in pass coverage.
Not only that, but Gregory and strong safety Patrick Chung fail to communicate, which leads to a score for Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chandler. Fortunately for the Patriots, the offense looked like the league's best and Fitzpatrick made more than his share of ill-advised throws that led to four interceptions.
Manning is not as prone to such awful throws and decisions as Fitzpatrick, and will spoil the Pats' homecoming from a two-game road trip.
Brady versus Manning may not be what it once was, but it will seem like it on Sunday afternoon. Perhaps they'll see each other again, but until then, Manning will frustrate the Foxboro faithful, outfox the Pats' defense and establish his Denver squad as a legitimate AFC contender.