Manning isn’t reminiscing about all those games between two of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
“Every game is just so critical in the conference right now,” he said, “so it’s hard to think about anything else, really, besides that.”
Five things to watch for in Broncos-Patriots:
POCKET OF PROTECTION: Despite worries about Manning’s taped and tender ankles, he has only been sacked 13 times, the second fewest of any quarterback who has started all his team’s games. Only Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, with 12 sacks, has been dropped fewer times. Last week, the Chiefs, who have 36 sacks, didn’t trap Manning in Denver’s win that left both teams tied for the AFC West lead.
“It’s always a good deal when your quarterback doesn’t get touched,” left tackle Chris Clark said. “We just keep our heads down and keep blocking — don’t look at the scoreboard, don’t look at the time, keep blocking your guy — like tunnel vision.”
NICKED-UP DEFENSES: The Patriots have a two-game lead in the weak AFC East, but must face the NFL’s best offense without some top defenders and with others not at full strength. Tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly and linebacker Jerod Mayo are on injured reserve. Starting defensive backs Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard and Steve Gregory all could be sidelined or playing with injuries.
The Broncos put free safety Rahim Moore on injured reserve Monday (with a designation to return) after he had surgery on his left leg.
SAFE AT HOME: Fans at Gillette Stadium have had plenty to cheer. The Patriots are 5-0 at home this year and 35-3 there over the last 38 regular-season games. But for the first time since 2005, they’re underdogs at home. Still, they didn’t have to make another trip during a short week of practice after their 24-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers last Monday night. That loss ended when officials waved off a defensive pass interference call that would have given the Patriots one last play from the Panthers 1-yard line.