Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots: Manning can bring down Brady

Peyton and his oval buddy can rack up the air miles

Romilly Evans previews tonight's all-star clash and reckons Peyton Manning can get one over on his old nemesis Tom Brady

"New England's depleted secondary is of particular concern, and reports from the midweek treatment table were far from encouraging."

Back Denver Broncos (-2.5) to beat New England Patriots on Match Handicap @ 2.01/1 or better

Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots
Monday, 01:30
Live on Channel 4

Peyton Manning used to journey to Fortress Foxborough at the head of a Colts army which, man-for-man, couldn't match up against the New England Patriots. True, they got a few over on them. But under my lights, Manning was always the better quarterback and paid the penalty for the comparative mediocrity of his teammates against the all-star Pats who boosted Tom Brady's reputation to galactic greatness. 

Monday morning's late game (we love an oxymoron on this side of the pond) between the Patriots and the Broncos will mark the 14th time that Brady and Manning have started opposite one another. To date, Brady holds a 9-4 career record over his great rival, prevailing seven of their 10 regular-season match-ups and two of the three in the play-offs.

All the while, though, Manning has managed more touchdowns, completions and total yards - stats which might suggest that he seldom comes up short in personal performance, only in personnel.

This year's confrontation feels very different, however. In fact, it is as if the footballing fates have decided to see how each quarterback would fare after trading places on their typical team rosters. They've even given the Broncos Brady's favourite receiver in Wes Welker to even up the scales.

So it is Manning who arrives at the Pats' home ground at the head of an awe-inspiring offense which has only been rivaled in recent history by the undefeated Patriots of 2007 (16-0 in the regular season). Peyton has thrown for a league-leading 3,572 yards and 34 touchdowns this year alone. Even leaving Welker aside (Manning's preferred target on shorter routes), these impressive numbers are hardly surprising when you have the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and tight end Julius Thomas at your disposal.

Fusing physicality with power comes naturally to all three, but JT appears to remain Manning's go-to guy in the crowded confines of the red zone. Thomas may not have the speed of raw strength of his wideout namesake, but he holds the safer pair of gloves and attracts less attention - or he has to date. In any case, Manning can still land it on a dime when the field gets short, so look to Thomas once again in the First Touchdown Scorer markets.

New England are, of course, not to be lightly dismissed. They are 5-0 at home this year and will once again have a post-season presence. However, while Brady's bunch will continue to work the scoreboard, last week's primetime loss to Carolina highlighted their collective defensive weaknesses. The secondary is the particular concern, and reports from the midweek treatment table were far from encouraging.

Top cornerback Aqib Talib (hip), together with Alfonzo Dennard (knee) and Kyle Arrington (groin), took abridged practice and while it's possible all could start tonight, none of them will be running at full pelt. Denver's receiving corps will be licking their lips in anticipation. It's not a question of whether the Pats can stop them, only if you can slow them enough to give Brady a chance to keep up.

Since Bill Belichick took the reigns as head coach, the Patriots have registered winning records against 30 of their 31 NFL opponents. Only the Broncos have failed to yield in a regular-season series which stands at 5-5. Expect Manning's attacking powerhouse - coupled to an improving defensive line with - to tilt the scales in Denver's favour.

The Broncos certainly appeal on the traditional Vegas-line, giving up just a field goal. Temperatures in the Boston area are meant to plummet tonight, but Manning still knows how to rack on the points when the crowd and the elements are against him. 

So while Manning is looking to make up for lost time, Brady may be running out of it.

Recommended Bets
Back Denver Broncos (-2.5) to beat New England Patriots on Match Handicap @ 2.01/1 or better
Back Denver Broncos (-1) to beat New England Patriots on First Half Handicap @ 2.01/1 or better
Back Over 28.5 Denver Broncos Total Points @ 2.5 or better
Back J. Thomas to be First Touchdown Scorer @ 8.0 or better

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