FOXBOROUGH — Of the 12 times Tom Brady and the Patriots have faced a Peyton Manning led team, the Patriots having been victorious in eight of those contests, including twice in the postseason.
But Sunday’s game marks a new twist in the quarterback rivalry as Manning, strangely draped in navy and orange, leads the Denver Broncos into Gillette Stadium.
The Broncos are coming off a sterling 37-6 win over the Oakland Raiders in which Manning was 30 of 38 for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Whatever worries that were held about Manning’s neck and his numerous surgeries after missing all of 2011 were evaporated.
The Broncos are 2-2 with Manning at the helm with a largely identical offense that he quarterbacked in Indianapolis for 13 seasons.
The Patriots come in to today’s contest with probably the team’s first serious absence on defense, having to go without safety Steve Gregory who is sidelined with a hip injury. The Patriots are also officially going without wide receiver Julian Edelman (hand), who was ruled out Friday with Gregory, and have 12 players who are listed as questionable, including Rob Gronkowski (hip), Aaron Hernandez (hip), Dont’a Hightower (hamstring), and Logan Mankins (calf/hip).
Mankins missed last week’s 52-28 win over the Buffalo Bills, while Aaron Hernandez has missed the last two games after getting injured against Arizona in Week 2. With so many players up in the air, the Patriots will likely be mixing and mashing more than just its secondary and offensive line.
Also, the Patriots will also get a chance to get reacquainted with center Dan Koppen, who will make the start for the Broncos. He was released by the Patriots after training camp after spending the past nine seasons in New England.
Of course, this game’s top matchup may be Brady vs. Manning, but there’s also Gronkowski playing opposite his brother, Chris. Chris Gronkowski plays fullback for the Broncos.
Here are the details for today’s game:
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
Records: Patriots 2-2; Broncos 2-2.
TV/Radio info: CBS (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos, Scott Zolak).
Projected starting lineups:
Based on information distributed to the media, practice observations, and injuries for each team.
Patriots offense: WR Wes Welker, LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Ryan Wendell, RG Dan Connolly, RT Sebastian Vollmer, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Brandon Lloyd, QB Tom Brady, RB Stevan Ridley, TE Daniel Fells.
Patriots defense: NT Vince Wilfork DT Kyle Love, RDE Chandler Jones, LB/DE Ron Ninkovich, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Dont’a Hightower, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Devin McCourty, CB Kyle Arrington, S Tavon Wilson, S Patrick Chung.
Broncos offense: WR Demaryius Thomas, LT Ryan Clady, LG Zane Beadles, C Dan Koppen, RG Chris Kuper, RT Orlando Franklin, TE Joel Dreessen, WR Eric Decker, QB Peyton Manning, FB Chris Gronkowski, RB Willis McGahee.
Broncos defense: LDE Derek Wolfe, DT Kevin Cikerson, NT Justin Bannan, RDE Elvis Dumervil, SLB Von Miller, MLB Joe Mays, WLB Wesley Woodyard, LCB Champ Bailey, RCB Tracy Porter, SS Mike Adams, FS Rahim Moore.
Patriots: Julian Edelman (hand), Steve Gregory (hip), Michael Hoomanawanui (concussion), Dont’a Hightower (hamstring), Matt Tennant, Aaron Hernandez (ankle), Jake Bequette.
Broncos: Caleb Hanie, CJ Davis, Sealver Siligia, Steven Johnson, Duke Ihenacho, Julius Thomas, and Knowshon Moreno.