On November 29, the Denver Broncos beat the New England Patriots, 30-24, in a thrilling overtime game on Sunday Night Football.
Those two teams, of course, will square off again this Sunday in the AFC Championship, with a spot in Super Bowl 50 on the line. But if you’re looking for big, bottom-line takeaways from that Week 12 meeting, well, don’t.
“I think the biggest thing about that game – and not to make excuses but to make excuses – it was a totally different Patriots team than what we’re going to see this weekend,” NFL analyst Adam Kaufman said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “That’s not me proclaiming an effortless victory for New England or anything like that, but in that game, the Patriots didn’t have Julian Edelman, they didn’t have Danny Amendola, and Rob Gronkowski carted off the field with a scary knee injury. People feared his season was over (with another) torn ACL. He didn’t make it through that one. Dont’a Hightower didn’t make it through that one. Brock Osweiler was starting, not Peyton Manning. So this is going to be a very different-looking matchup than I think what we saw going back to Week 12. That’s really the biggest thing for me. You can look at certain tendencies, but generally, it’s hard to take a lot from that game going into this one.”
Indeed, not only will New England be stronger offensively, but Denver will be weaker offensively – at least in the eyes of Patriots fans. Yes, Kaufman said that Brady backers are extremely happy than Manning, not Osweiler, is starting on Sunday.
“Absolutely,” said the Boston-based Kaufman. “That’s absolutely how people around here feel. I don’t know how people in Denver feel about it. The reason for it, in a lot of ways, is Peyton Manning doesn’t have the arm strength anymore. I don’t think anybody would argue if you want the experience, if you want the mental edge, if you want the guy who’s been there and knows what to expect, of course that’s Peyton Manning. But in terms of the higher talent ceiling and the ability to throw the deep ball, you look to a guy like Brock Osweiler. But obviously Peyton Manning is going to get the start. How much he helped the team could be argued, but he certainly didn’t hurt the team in that win against Pittsburgh. (We’ll) see what happens (this weekend), but there is an extreme confidence around here from Patriots fans going into this game – probably an overconfidence, quite frankly.”