Good Morning, Broncos fans! As the team prepares for its trip to New England, it's only natural that much of the talk focuses on the showdown between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
QBs aside, these are two franchises that are very familiar with each other; not only did they face off twice last season, and seven times in seven seasons, but several players (Dan Koppen, Brandon Lloyd, Daniel Fells) have played for both teams (Niko Koutouvides doesn't count*). And of course, there's the Pats offensive coordinator, some dude by the name of Josh.
Unfortunately, three of their last four meetings have been absolute shellackings, with the exception being the Hoodie Jr./Hoodie Sr. game of 2009.
One key to this week's edition of Broncos/Patriots could be health.
All 53 players on Denver's active roster practiced yesterday, although starting RG Chris Kuper (forearm) was limited, and John Fox calls him a game-day decision. Nate Irving (concussion) was also limited.
Getting Kuper back would figure to ease the pressure on Koppen as he goes up against his old practice foe Vince Wilfork, even if that would require the center acquainting himself to another new right guard.
Meanwhile, New England's two biggest offensive weapons - tight ends Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle) - did not practice yesterday. But there's been no suggestion that Gronkowski is not going to suit up on Sunday, and Hernandez is apparently walking without a limp - at least for the benefit of the beat reporters.
WR Julian Edelman (hand) also did not practice yesterday.
*For those who don't remember, or have blocked it from memory, Koutouvides is the prior special-teams player Denver acquired and tried to turn into a starting middle linebacker. While Joe Mays has fared better than Niko, we'll maintain that this is one of the worst ways to try to land a starting Mike. There are reasons that teams keep players solely on special teams...
Congratulations go out to Matt Prater, who was named AFC ST POW; we're hoping the last line of this post is made with tongue in cheek. Jeff Legwold says Prater has the leg to hit a 70-yarder, at least at home.
Koppen admits he wasn't shocked by New England's decision to cut him this year.
Demaryius Thomas says that while Manning is a demanding teammate, that image is somewhat overblown, even by former teammates of the QB.
Although Peyton's career against the Patriots got off to a brutal start, he's 5-2 in their last seven meetings; Manning played that down by noting the personnel is largely different from the last time he faced them; Legwold focuses on the brainiacs in Manning and Bill Belichick; Mike Tanier looks back to the first meeting between the two quarterbacks.
Manning fan Scott Kacsmar says Peyton has thrown the ball more than he'd expected, and he sees essentially the same QB as the one from 201.
Mark Kiszla lauds the greatness of Manning and Brady and their respect for one another.
New England brought back LB Bobby Carpenter, with LB Dont'a Hightower limited by a hamstring injury.
What Brady and Manning may have in common more than anything are their relentless work ethics, especially relative to the cerebral part of the game.
Although the Pats posted 52 points on Sunday, their offense struggled in the first half and went into halftime down 14-7.
7 of the Pats' 11 red-zone TDs this year have come via the run.
Several Oakland players are reacting to Sunday's beatdown by eschewing vacations during their bye week.
The Jets signed recent Broncos WR Jason Hill, who last year said the Jets were overhyped.
Ed Hochuli is on the cover of SI.
As we'd figured, Brian Burke's game probabilities says Sunday will be a tossup, although they give Denver the slightest of edges.
Andy Benoit says it's unreasonable to lay the blame for Tony Romo's five interceptions at his feet.
Bucky Brooks credits the progress of Christian Ponder as one of the keys to Minnesota's emergence. Bill Barnwell says the key is the Vikings are throwing it more on first down, and well. If anyone is wondering, I still think Ponder is far better than Tim Tebow.
Doug Farrar says that while it's easy for us all to say that Ron Rivera should have gone for it on Sunday (and he should have), it's a lot harder to actually make that call on the sideline.
Gil Brandt is impressed by the play of undrafted rookies Brandon Bolden, RB for New England, and Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals LB whom TJ wanted the Broncos to draft in April.
Talk in New Jersey is that Jets owner Woody Johnson could end up forcing his football people to insert Teebs as their starting QB.
Jeff Darlington is still blinded by the notion that Timmy's play defies logic, but perhaps he should ask Denver's upcoming opponents about that.
Then again, Sam Monson says Mark Sanchez is playing like a rookie, so why not make the change?
But Clark Judge sees few similarities between these Jets and last year's Broncos, especially since Denver was in a nothing-to-lose situation in 2011.
KSK captionizes Week 4, including a plea from John Elway to Peyton to join the 53%.