A rivalry is about to be renewed in the NFL as Tom Brady faces Peyton Manning for the first time as the signal caller for the Denver Broncos.
It's always difficult to make bold predictions when these two first ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks meet, but let's take a look at three big, bad bold predictions for the Sunday afternoon match up at Gillette Stadium.
Bold Prediction #1 – It's Going to be a Shoot Out!
Both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will air the ball out early and often in this game, as both quarterbacks try and show that they have the dominate aerial attack.
Brady has new receiver Brandon Lloyd to bolster the Patriots passing game and Manning has shown chemistry with his stable of receivers with Eric Decker and Demariyus Thomas.
Look for both offenses to challenge the opponent with long passes, but one real factor will be who can balance things out with a solid rushing attack as well.
The key will be who can open up a lead early in the game and attempt to keep the other quarterback at bay. This game promises to be a reminder of how fun it was to watch Manning and Brady compete through the years and hopefully this match up will only be a preview of a playoff game to come
Bold Prediction #2 – The Rushing Attack Controls the Clock
The Patriots have hitched their wagon to Steven Ridley in the rushing game and the Broncos have leaned heavily on Willis McGahee through the first quarter of the season. Both teams will need to run the ball effectively on Sunday in order to chew up the clock against the opposing quarterback.
It will be a toss up between passing a lot early to attempt to establish the lead, or running the ball early to control the clock and wear down the opposing defense. The smart money is on Manning and the Broncos controlling the clock early with the veteran McGahee and taking the shots down field later in the day, but the Patriots showed again last week that they can put up points in a hurry against the Buffalo Bills.
For the Patriots, they haven't had to lean hard on the running game over the past decade, but feeding the ball to Ridley is the smartest way to keep Manning off the field and to open up the passing game to their talented tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Bold Prediction #3 – The Return of Aaron Hernandez is the Difference Maker
Aaron Hernandez went down in week one with an ankle injury, and the Patriots struggled through the next two weeks with losses to the Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens. The talented tight end is now back at practice, and although he is questionable, Hernandez will be back in the mix this week and will be the difference maker in the game for the Patriots to lead them to victory.
The combination of Gronk and Hernandez is a match up nightmare for any team, but it will be a crushing blow for the Broncos on Sunday afternoon as the Patriots emerge with a victory on the back of two Hernandez touchdowns.