The New England Patriots face the Denver Broncos on Sunday night in Foxboro, MA in a match-up of two of the top teams in the AFC. There are a number of plotlines beyond simply Tom Brady and Peyton Manning facing off again:
- Denver wide receiver Wes Welker is returning to New England as an opponent after an acrimonious separation this offseason;
- The mind of Bill Belichick on defense versus Peyton Manning;
- Two of the most dynamic tight ends in the league on the field (Julius Thomas and Rob Gronkowski)
- Tom Brady versus Von Miller, old enmity with an old enemy Shaun Phillips (remember those post-season battles and bad blood with San Diego);
- Four of the five top defensive backs for New England listed as questionable coming into the game;
- The potential return from injury of Denver cornerback Champ Bailey;
- The under-the-radar Denver special teams play that has made a number of big plays this season;
- and two passing offenses matching-up on a bitterly cold evening and the possibility of an icy wind cutting into the passing game.
With all these plot lines in play, the noise will end when the kickoff finally happens and the game leaves the stories behind and comes down to the match-up on the field with the players lining up against each other. In that light, here is an examination of both teams and their match-ups on both sides of the ball.