Denver, CO. Broncos vs Patriots….both teams 2-2….Manning vs Brady….This will undoubtedly be the game in week 5 that has all NFL fans across America glued to their TV’s, as this individual QB rivalry adds yet another new chapter. It really is, when everything is considered, quite possibly the greatest QB rivalry in the history of the league. These two legends, although not in the same division, have met almost every year throughout their careers. It has been well noted that Brady has had the edge over the years in wins, and overall team success. They have both had their moments though, and many times the Patriots and Colts have had go through each other to reach their ultimate year-end goals. So now that Peyton is back with his new team after a year away from the game, and Tom is looking just as good as he ever has, both guys are playing at very high levels heading into this early season showdown of AFC squads. But for Manning, this game in Foxboro poses an entirely different challenge than he is typically used to. The challenge this week for him is to play well, something he has simply not done during his career in this particular part of the country. Foxboro, Massachusetts has proven to be Peyton’s house of horrors over the years. If the Broncos want to upset New England on Sunday, #18 will have the buck his trend of coming up short when facing the Patriots on the road.
As great as all of the legendary NFL QB’s have proven to be during their playing days, almost all of them have had a place or two where they just do not play well. For John Elway, he and his Broncos always seemed to have problems getting the job done at Kansas City. For Dan Marino, having to win at Buffalo was an annual chore. Brett Favre had a horrendous record when playing at Minnesota. For Peyton Manning, his stats and his team’s success have headed directly south when he has played the Patriots in Foxboro. It is without a doubt, the place where he has put up his worst overall numbers throughout his career. In 10 career games there, Peyton Manning has a 2-8 record, while throwing 18 TD’s and 22 interceptions. In fact, everything is down by a large margin, including QB rating and completion %. So the question is, why is this the case? Several reasons, actually. First, typically he has faced a Patriots team over the years that is just amazingly good at home, regardless of who their opponent has been. They beat everyone there, and usually by a significant margin. Also, it makes a lot sense that the fact that Peyton’s Colts played their home games in a dome was a huge disadvantage for them. Road games for almost every dome team over the years has typically been a major challenge. Factor in that we all know how dicey the weather can been up in the Boston area in the fall and winter, and this gives New England a massive home field edge over just about everyone. Another key ingredient that has added to Peyton’s misery in Foxboro has been that he has had to face his arch rival, Tom Brady, in his building. As we all know, Tom Brady is pretty good, wherever he plays. Since he took over as the Patriots QB in early 2001, he has won over 80% of his games in Foxboro. Often times when the Patriots have hosted the Colts, it has been New England who has gotten an early lead. This has forced Manning to have to throw more than normal, leading to costly errors while forcing passes into coverage. Although Peyton Manning would obviously never back down from any sort of challenge on the road, if he never had to play another game in Massachusetts, he would be just fine with that idea.
The good part for Peyton heading into this matchup this weekend is that it isn’t January. I am sure all NFL fans can recall Manning trying to throw through the snow in Foxboro in the playoffs, only to have a New England defender pulling in his errant tosses. Manning walking dejectedly to the sidelines was a common scene several years ago, as he has assuredly never forgotten those dreadful performances. Knowing what kind of competitor he has always been, this alone should provide plenty of motivation to play a tremendous game this Sunday. The questions all week about his poor play in Foxboro will undoubtedly stoke his fire. Through the first month, he has shown that although he may not be quite what he once was, he still has enough to be a very good QB in the NFL, and one that can lead his Broncos to a lot of points. But what happens once he hits that field on late Sunday afternoon, and he remembers all of his mistakes there throughout the years? Will it get the better of him, or will he find a way to overcome these road demons and be the reason that Denver notches a huge road victory? History says don’t bet on #18 getting it done this week, as Tom Brady and the Patriots should prove to be too much once again…..an interesting side note…..although it appears that the weather in Foxboro should be in the 70′s all week, a front is moving in late Saturday and into Sunday. Game time weather calls for low 50′s, wind, and a 70% chance of rain. Bet Peyton loves this news….;)