Why Broncos' Week 12 Matchup with Patriots Is Really Biggest Game of the Season

Travis Wakeman@@traviswakeman10Correspondent IINovember 18, 2013

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 7:  Chandler Jones #95 of the New England Patriots leaps for a pass by Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium on October 7, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

In one of the most anticipated games of the 2013 NFL season, the Denver Broncos handed the Kansas City Chiefs their first defeat of the season in front of a national audience.

In the process, Denver claimed first place in the AFC West and are currently the No. 1 seed in the AFC. In two weeks, they play those same Chiefs again—this time at Arrowhead Stadium.

But neither of those games will be as important as the one Denver plays in Week 12.

The Broncos sit at 9-1 and may be the best team in the NFL. However, until they can finally clear the hurdle that is the New England Patriots, that will all just be speculation.

The Patriots have had an up-and-down season. Currently, they sit at 7-2. Yet they have lost games to the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals, and they have struggled to defeat bad teams like Buffalo and Atlanta.

Tom Brady has had to run his offense without many of his favorite weapons from years past, but he is still managing to get it done.

If New England can get a victory over Denver, their up-and-down season would suddenly become extremely promising, and talk would likely shift to whether or not Brady and Bill Belichick can reach a sixth Super Bowl together.

Those are questions the Broncos want to avoid. A loss to New England would certainly bring on the familiar questions Peyton Manning has faced his entire career.

Why can't he beat Tom Brady, and why does New England seem to have his number?

In head-to-head matchups, Brady has a 9-4 advantage over Manning. As a member of both the Colts and Broncos, Manning has a 6-10 record against New England since 2000, including the postseason.

Then there is the fact that Brady has played in five Super Bowls, winning three. In 2003 and 2004, the Patriots dashed any hopes Manning had for a championship by knocking his Colts out of the playoffs.

In Denver, Manning has faced the Colts once. The Broncos went 13-3 in the regular season in 2012, but one of those losses was to New England.

The Broncos left New England with a 31-21 loss, but it had to be the same familiar sting for Manning.

A winnable game, but they failed to execute late.

Not only has Manning struggled against Brady and the Patriots, the Broncos have too. Denver has lost three in a row to New England and four of the last five.

Stats Comparison
TeamPass Yards per GameRush Yards Per GamePoints Per GamePass Yards AgainstRush Yards AgainstPoints Against
New England232.0129.126.0232.8128.219.4
NFL Stats

For those reasons, the Broncos need to win this game to assert themselves as the team to beat in the AFC. Doing so in Foxboro would make it an even bigger statement.

For the first time since 2005, the Patriots will be an underdog at home (CBSSports.com).

Fans should expect to see the best that both teams have to offer. But for Denver, a loss to New England would erase the hard work they put into beating Kansas City and force them to win at Arrowhead to have a chance at home field advantage.

Aside from that, the same old questions would begin to swirl around Manning and his team.

Statistically, the Broncos are superior to New England this season, at least from an offensive standpoint. But the stats can be thrown out the window when the Broncos travel to Foxboro.

It remains to be seen which team will seize home field advantage in the AFC. But for the Broncos, the road to a Super Bowl may very well go through New England regardless.



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