One of the best rivalries in the history of the NFL is on tap for our viewing pleasure Sunday afternoon as Peyton Manning leads his Denver Broncos into Gillette Stadium to take on Tom Brady's New England Patriots.
The two future Hall of Famers have met a dozen times before, with Brady holding an 8-to-4 advantage. However, after being defeated in each of his first six attempts, Manning has emerged victorious four times in his last six tries, albeit that it was with a different team and before his neck surgeries.
While the Patriots improving their defense through the draft, they still have issues defending the pass, ranking 25th allowing 281.6 yards a game through the air, a number that places them 25th in the NFL.
They've allowed nine touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks—the same amount as the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders—and only the Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins have allowed more.
Sure, the unit has six interceptions, fourth most in the league, but four of those came last week at the expense of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo Bills.
Fitzpatrick might lead the NFL with 12 touchdown passes, but nobody is going to confuse him with Peyton Manning.
Denver's offense has succeeded not only because of Manning's ability to throw the ball, but because teams need to respect the run—and as we can see in the video, that's not going to be easy to do against a vastly improved Patriots front seven that ranks seventh in the league against the run.
While that front seven has improved against the run, that hasn't led to a better pass rush. The Patriots have seven sacks on the season, which puts them in a four-way-tie for 22nd place in the league, and with only six teams having more trouble getting to the quarterback.
Much of that has to do with their struggles against the pass and opposing quarterbacks being able to make their read and get rid of the ball quickly.
Manning has made a career out of making quick decisions—typically the right ones—and his ability to adjust at the line, coupled with New England's inability to disrupt what he wants to do, will lead to Manning getting one step closer to evening out his battle with Brady.
Does he have enough left in the tank to play long enough to catch Brady's eight wins?
We can only hope.