Originally written on BroncoTalk  |  Last updated 10/5/12

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning meet on the field for the 13th time Sunday in Foxboro.

We all know this weekend is about Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, no matter what each quarterback tells you. But for one second, let’s indulge their insistent “it’s Patriots vs. Broncos” remarks and look at how the Patriots vs. Broncos fare in the eyes of Football Outsiders‘ smarter stats. Remember that negative percentages are good on defense, bad on offense and specials.

Offense
Offensive DVOA – 33.2% (1st)
Boom. There it is folks. The stat that doesn’t lie. The Patriots are the NFL’s best offense. Maybe this game is about Peyton Manning having to purely outscore Tom Brady after all, because one thing is certain — the Patriots will score. They have the top-ranked passing attack (52.2% DVOA) and second-best rushing attack (19.1%). Both Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski returned to practice this week, so if they’re full go for Sunday, the Pats will even have their Bronco-killing two tight end formation in play.

The Broncos’ saving grace may be the fact that their defense is decent. They’re ranked 7th in DVOA with -15.3%. Only Arizona ranks higher defensively (6th, -17.2%) among teams the Patriots have faced, and the Cardinals beat them.

Defense
Defensive DVOA – -1.7% (18th)
The Patriots have a number of young playmakers on their defensive front seven, including starting rookies Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. The growing pains have been minimal, and in fact each is playing solid. Where the Patriots struggle — and where they’ve always struggled over the last several seasons — is in the secondary. Safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory are susceptible to getting beaten deep and taking bad angles. The Patriots pass defense, at a morbid 18.2% DVOA, reflects that, while their -30.8% DVOA against the run shows much more discipline in that area. Denver’s 10th-ranked offense has a chance to make the Patriots pay, especially if they rely on Peyton Manning’s arm.

Special Teams
Special Teams DVOA – -3.3% (24th)
Neither special teams is anything special, though the Broncos do have a slight edge with the 17th-ranked special teams unit.

Conclusion
The Broncos may be a bit more statistically balanced between offense and defense, but the Patriots’ offense is good enough to make anyone pay anyway, especially at home. Looks like this could be all about Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning after all.


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