In a revamped rivalry pitting two of the best quarterbacks to ever play against one another, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos travel to Foxborough to square off against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Brady has gotten the better of his battles against Peyton, compiling a record of 8-4 over the years. Manning lost the first six meetings, though, and has gained the upper hand more recently.
However, this game isn't just about the two legendary signal-callers, as both teams sit at a 2-2 crossroads in this young NFL season.
The Broncos and Patriots sport top-flight offenses and improved defenses from a year ago, but it will likely boil down to which QB has the ball in his hands last.
That sounds like a recipe for a fantastic late Sunday afternoon in Gillette Stadium.
Current Betting Line: Courtesy of BetOnline.ag
Point Spread: Denver +7, New England -7
Moneyline: Denver +245, New England -290
What's at Stake:
Bragging rights are certainly at stake for both QBs, but there is a huge difference between being 3-2 and 2-3. Both teams have tough road tests in Week 6, with the Broncos taking on the San Diego Chargers in a key AFC West game, and the Patriots contending with the 12th Man in Seattle.
New England had a perceptibly "easy" schedule when the season started, but it would be much tougher sledding if it can't take care of business versus the Broncos. Meanwhile, stealing one against the Pats would give Denver a huge wave of momentum entering its second divisional matchup.
This is a statement game for Peyton Manning, who has been somewhat inconsistent this season but has very gaudy numbers. It will be interesting to see which Peyton shows up on Sunday.
Injury News (via ESPN Injury Report)
Denver Broncos: Matt Willis, WR (hamstring) PROBABLE, Nate Irving, LB (concussion) PROBABLE
New England Patriots: Brandon Bolden, RB (knee) QUESTIONABLE, Shane Vereen, RB (foot) QUESTIONABLE, Julian Edelman, WR (hand) QUESTIONABLE, Aaron Hernandez, TE (ankle) QUESTIONABLE, Rob Gronkowski, TE (hip) QUESTIONABLE, Dont'a Hightower, LB (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE
Both teams should be relatively successful throwing the football, but it will be up to the Denver D to contain the Pats' running backs, Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden. The duo combined for 243 yards in Week 4 at Buffalo, and the balanced attack is the reason why New England has amassed the most total yards of any team in 2012.
If Brady has a similarly effective rushing attack to lean on, brilliant Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio won't have any answers for Tom Terrific. As mentioned, though, Bolden is listed as questionable
The Foxborough faithful must be taken out of the game early for Denver to have a shot at stealing this one on the road, and the Broncos' top-10 rushing defense will be the most crucial element to ensure that happens.
11th Hour Fantasy Advice:
Stevan Ridley: With the status of Brandon Bolden and Shane Vereen in question, Ridley is likely to get the bulk of the carries for the Pats. It's not an ideal matchup, but the Broncos did yield 105 yards to Arian Foster of the Houston Texans. New England has shown similar balance on offense thus far, and Ridley should find the end zone at least once.
Tom Brady: Denver's pass defense is in the middle of the NFL pack, but Brady has some beat-up tight ends in Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Although Gronk isn't expected to miss Sunday's game, Hernandez is unlikely to play. Clearly, it wasn't a problem against Buffalo's leaky defense last week, but Sunday could be a lackluster outing for Brady. Still start him, though.
Peyton Manning: The Pats' secondary lets up nearly 282 yards per game, but teams are passing a lot since Brady and Co. are putting so many points on the board. Manning has a completely healthy offense, and should find a way to put up Peyton-esque fantasy numbers.
Jacob Tamme: Bills tight end Scott Chandler gashed New England for two touchdowns last week. The instability at the safety position for the Pats should give second-time teammates Manning and Tamme plenty of opportunities to connect.
Prediction: Patriots 31, Broncos 27
In what turns out to be a relatively high-scoring affair, Brady gets the ball last. That spells trouble for the visiting Broncos, as Tom orchestrates a two-minute drive to cap off the game.