Broncos Seek Complete AFC Control Sunday

With the Denver Broncos, at 6-1 and leading the AFC presently, Sunday could be a crucial game for them in terms of taking complete control of the American Football Conference as they face the New England Patriots, inter-conference rivals who they have traditionally owned.

While the Broncos lead the Patriots 28-20 all-time, and are a respectful 9-11 at New England in their history, they have not won at Foxborough, Mass. since 2006, having lost their four games at Gillette Stadium.

Nevertheless, the Broncos are -3 favorites per the Vegas sportsbooks and are playing arguably better football than anyone in the NFL, so the Patriots have a tall order stacked against them.

The good news for the Patriots is that Tom Brady  (64.4 completion percentage, 18 TD’s, 2 INT’s, 2,059 yards) is one of the major reasons why New England leads the NFL in turnover ratio at +11, while Brady is also fifth in the NFL in touchdown passes and has the fifth best passer rating in the league at 104.7.

Additionally, only 0.7 percent of his passes have been intercepted, the second-best rate in the NFL behind Arizona’s Carson Palmer, at 0.6 percent. Despite this, his six fumbles are the second-most in the NFL, only trailing Chicago’s Jay Cutler, who has 8.

The Patriots’ immaculate turnover ratio has enabled them to be third in the league in scoring offense (29.8 points), while only 10th in yards amassed  (363.1), and tight end Rob Gronkowski is again Brady’s best friend as he has amassed a team-best 558 receiving yards, good for a Patriots’ high 7 scoring receptions.

The rushing offense has also struggled, as leading tailback Stevan Ridley is out for Sunday’s game and had only run for 340 yards before his injury, averaging a meager 3.6 yards per attempt.

However, if the Patriots are unable to force any turnovers against the Broncos, who remarkably, have not turned the ball over against any AFC opponents this season, things could get ugly as they already give up 22.1 points per game and allow nearly 130 rushing yards per contest.

Meanwhile, for Peyton Manning, his season continues to go spectacularly, as he has completed 69 percent of his passes (second only to Drew Brees of New Orleans who checks in with a 69.5 percent completion rate), for 2,134 yards, 22 TD’s and 3 INT’s.  Manning’s 119.0 passer rating leads the NFL and averages 304.9 yards per game, good for third in league annals. He leads the league in yards per attempt (8.5),  and percentage of passes going for scores (8.7 percent).

It helps that two of his favorite targets, Demaryius Thomas (a league-best 109.6 receiving yards per game) and Emmanuel Sanders (7th in receiving yards per game at 90.6) are being productive, while tight end Julius Thomas leads the league in total touchdowns at 9.

As numerous pundits, such as Jim Rome, who has often been outspoken about the Broncos’ softness, have said, the Broncos have depth and do various things well, making them arguably the best all-around team in the NFL at the halfway point.

The Broncos are also #1 in the NFL in two key statistics, scoring offense (32 points per game), and rushing defense (72.4 yards per game). Their defense continues to be a dominant force, as they are sixth in scoring defense (20.3 points per contest), are fourth in net yardage allowed (315.3 yards per game), and are sixth in the NFL in sacks with 23.

In this statistical category, the Broncos are sixth in the NFL, tied with Detroit in that position, and star defenders Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware have combined for 16 of them, it’s reasonable to suggest they could give Brady fumbling problems.

In closing, if New England has any designs of having a first-round bye in the upcoming postseason, this seems to be a game they really need to win, so there is a lot on the line for both of these teams.

This is the 17th matchup (including postseason) between Brady and Manning all-time and undoubtedly if you’ve watched NFL analysis shows this week, you’ve seen every possible X and O analyzed to the nth degree concerning this matchup but you can watch it on your local CBS affiliate in the late window, unless of course you live along the West Coast, you will have to see this on NFL Sunday Ticket as Seahawks-Raiders will be airing all throughout California en route to Oregon and Washington.