When the 2012 NFL schedule was announced, most NFL fans circled October 7 on their calendar.
Manning, coming off a spectacular performance against the hated Raiders, looks to satisfy Broncos fans once again by guiding Denver to its third win of the season. New England, who has won 35 of their last 37 games at Gillette Stadium, is trying to avoid that possibility.
Brady is still Brady, and Manning is still Manning.
Both will try to pick apart depleted secondaries and avoid pressure from strong defensive lines while establishing strong rushing attacks. And, of course, both will try to avoid having their teams fall below .500.
Gillette Stadium will be packed, but Manning can shift the momentum toward the Broncos. Patriot Place is currently populated with some Broncos fans, and Manning can certainly make the crowd a non-factor by getting off to a good start.
It's safe to say that they will be ready for this one, but Denver can certainly get in their heads and control the tempo.
How will they do that?
Well, Manning will have to get into a rhythm quickly. Dan Koppen, who is a former Patriot, will be key. If he can make up for the loss of J.D Walton and protect Manning, that will definitely help. New England doesn't have a good secondary, but they have a great pass rush.
What does that mean? Short passes and long drives will be key. If they can control and move the ball while keeping Brady off of the field, their chances of winning will skyrocket. Brady will have the chance to do the same, so Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter and the secondary must step up.
Establishing the run will help, too.
Willis McGahee averaged almost six yards per carry last week and is looking to do the same thing to the Patriots. He is a good runner with decent vision who doesn't usually break loose for huge gains, but he is a guy who gets a lot of 10-yard gains.
Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden aren't well known, but they both ran for more than 100 yards last week against the Bills. Ridley has been great this year, and Bolden broke out against the Bills.
Therefore, New England's offense is finally two-dimensional.
That means the Broncos, who haven't exactly been great on defense, will have trouble. Their defensive line dominated Oakland's offensive line, and if they could force Brady to hurry his throws, it would be great.
But of course, the Pats could turn to the running game.
Denver's defense will struggle, and it's safe to say that the Patriots will light up the scoreboard. So, to win the game, Manning will have to step up and shred New England's defense from the start. If Denver can swipe the momentum from the home team, it will pave the way for a victory.
Beating the Patriots is hard, but it's been done, and New England has lost three of their last five games. Manning has experience playing in Gillette Stadium, and he knows this is a must-win game. He and the Broncos seem to have worked out a lot of issues, and it is noticeable.
Manning has been frustrating defenses this year, especially on third down. He is confident, and that confidence will be key in a big game. He knows what the Patriots can do, and he knows that he will have receivers open all game long.
Which is why he will step up, execute the game plan and lead the Broncos to a win.