Manning vs. Brady.
Sports anchors, analysts, and reporters have repeated this mantra for nearly 15 years. Each year since 2000 at least one of these two quarterbacks has led his team to the playoffs. They’ve faced each other sixteen times, with four of those meetings in the playoffs. Meeting number 5, and possibly the final meeting, will occur this Sunday, January 24.
The spotlight will once again rest upon their heads this week. But in reality, the battle will be between their teams’ respective defenses.
The Denver defense has excelled all year. They are ranked as the league’s number one defense, giving up only 283 yards per game and only 18.5 points per game. They also led the league in sacks.
They will face a New England team that has been riddled with injuries offensively. The Patriots will have a combination of James White and Steven Jackson in the backfield. White was the third string running back earlier this season and Jackson was signed on December 21. The offensive line has also faced injury issues which has led to Tom Brady facing heavy pressure. The line, however, stepped up in last week’s win against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Patriots’ defense is also a serious threat. They had the second most sacks as a unit and gave up an average of 19.7 points per game. They are also in the top 10 in yards per game.
Their defense will take on a Denver offense that has struggled all season. Peyton Manning threw 17 interceptions, the second most in the league despite Manning missing 6 games this season. He has not thrown an interception since returning from injury in Week 17.
Manning’s struggles throwing the ball, combined with their runningbacks’ struggles to be effective could play right into the hands of the Patriot defense.
Earlier this season the Broncos defeated the Patriots 30-24 in overtime. Both Manning and DeMarcus Ware missed the game with injuries for Denver. For the Patriots, Rob Gronkowski and Donta Hightower both left the game after injuries.
The addition of these players, and others, will make for an interesting and improved match-up. Having first round byes, both teams are healthier than they were in their initial match-up.
For the rest of the week, the debate between Manning and Brady will rage on. That’s exactly how these teams like it. There’s no better way of making a statement than by upstaging the stars.