The Patriots welcome the Denver Broncos to Foxboro Sunday in a renewal of the greatest quarterback rivalry in NFL history: Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady.
Make sure you sit back and soak it all in on Sunday, folks. It will be two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, still at the top of their game, in a battle that will likely have a direct impact on the 2012 playoff picture, trading aerial bombs in the autumn twilight of New England.
It doesn't get much better than that for football fans.
The rivalry has an added twist his year with Manning visiting New England in his shiny new Denver Broncos uniform in place of the trusty old blue horseshoe that he came to personify from 1998 to 2010.
The Cold, Hard Football Facts have discussed this rivalry's spot in history in numerous places in the past and again this week, including SI.com and on Cold, Hard Football Facts radio here on Patriots.com. (Great episode this week, too. We get insight from ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter and talk tailgating with a pair of Boston's best restaurateurs, Garrett Harker and Jackson Cannon.)
We named Manning-Brady the greatest QB rivalry in history way back in 2007.
So we don't want to re-hash the story too much here. But short version: we are witnessing history unfold every time Manning and Brady take the field together – which they do for the 13th time on Sunday (Brady's Patriots hold an 8-4 advantage).
Obviously, the quarterbacks don't square off against each other head to head. And football, of course, is the ultimate team game.
But Brady-Manning is the gift that keeps on giving to football fans; two prolific future Hall of Fame quarterbacks who put up monster numbers, who lead contending teams year after year and who meet in games that, for more than a decade, have had a direct impact on the Super Bowl picture almost every year.
Here are some of the amazing highlights:
- Brady or Manning have represented the AFC in the Super Bowl in seven of the last 11 seasons.
- The winner of the regular-season series between Brady's Patriots and Manning's Colts gained home-field advantage over the other team every year they've met (2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010).
- The winner of the three post-season meetings between Brady's Patriots and Manning's Colts went on to win the Super Bowl all three times (2003, 2004, 2006)
As we said, no marquee quarterbacks in NFL history met so often in games of such consequence year after year.
And here's the best part: despite the fact that both Brady and Manning are aging old warhorses by the very youthful standards of the NFL, both are at the top of their game right now.
The Patriots are No. 1 in the NFL in scoring offense with 33.5 points per game. The Broncos are No. 7 in scoring offense, with 28.5 PPG.
But these are actually the top two offenses in football if we look at the quality of the opposing defenses each has faced – with the advantage to Manning's Broncos.
The Broncos have averaged 28.5 PPG against teams that have surrendered just 18.2 PPG in other games. So Denver is a league best 10.3 PPG on offense, according to the Relativity Index.
The Patriots have scored their 33.5 PPG against teams that have surrendered 24.3 PPG in their other games. So New England is 9.2 PPG on offense, according to the Relativity Index. Only the Broncos are better.
Enjoy it, folks. These moments are precious and few in the life of any football fan.
It gives us an unvarnished look at the strengths and weaknesses of every team with no bias. We report only what the numbers that correlate to wins and losses tell us.
Here's how the Patriots measure up in those 20 different indicators, ranked from best to worst among the 32 teams in the NFL. Clearly, it's still a team in need of a defensive upgrade over the final 12 games before we can finally consider the Patriots a Super Bowl-caliber club.
Offensive Hog Index (No. 2) – The second best OL in football.
Offensive Negative Pass Play percentage (No. 4) – Among the best in the NFL at limiting those critical sacks and INTs. The Patriots suffer a Negative Pass Play (sack, INT) on just 5.6 percent of dropbacks.
Real Quarterback Rating (No. 5) – Our measure of all aspects of quarterback production, including sacks, fumbles and rushing, in addition to passing numbers (98.0).
Quality Stats Power Rankings (No. 6) – An average of the across-the-board ranking in all our Quality Stats. The Patriots, on average, rank 11.4 in each of our indicators.
Scoreability (No. 6) – Our measure of offensive efficiency, a traditional strength of Bill Belichick's Patriots. The Patriots average 1 point for every 13.1 yards of offense. The Patriots score a touchdown and extra point for every 91.7 yards of offense.
Offensive Passer Rating (No. 6) – Still among the league leaders in passing efficiency (102.4).
The Relativity Index (No. 6) – A measure of how teams perform relative to the quality of their opposition. The Patriots are 12.5 points better on average than their opponents in their other games.
Real Passing Yards Per Attempt (No. 7) – New England averages 7.27 yards every time they drop back to pass. REAL passing YPA includes the impact of sacks, giving a truer measure of passing performance.
Passer Rating Differential (No. 7) – The Patriots are 11.8 in PRD, the "Mother of All Stats." Super Bowl champions are typically dominant in this indicator.
Defensive Rush Yards Per Attempt (No. 8) – The Patriots have been fairly stout against the run, allowing opponents just 3.37 YPA.
Offensive Rush Yards Per Attempt (No. 12) – New England produces 4.20 yards each time it runs the ball.
Third-down offense (No. 12) – The Patriots have converted 41.5 percent of third-down attempts.
Bendability (No. 14) – Our measure of defensive efficiency; a way to quantify the "bend but don't break" phenomenon. The Patriots force opponents to march 15.98 yards for each point scored, or the equivalent of 111.9 yards for each touchdown and extra point.
Defensive Hog Index (No. 17) – The Patriots are merely mediocre in our ranking of each team's defensive front. Dominance on the DHI is traditionally a very solid indicator of Super Bowl potential.
Defensive Real Quarterback Rating (No. 18) – A measure of the production of opposing quarterbacks in all aspects of play, not just passing. The Patriots have a Defensive QB Rating of 84.8.
Defensive Passer Rating (No. 19) – The formula for quarterbacks, applied to pass defense, a traditional weakness of the Patriots since their last Super Bowl victory. Opposing QBs have produced a 90.6 passer rating.
Defensive Negative Pass Play percentage (No. 20) – The Patriots defense forces a sack or INT on just 7.8 percent of opponents' dropbacks.
Third-down defense (No. 22) – Opponents convert 41.2 percent of third-down attempts.
Defensive Real Passing YPA (No. 25) – New England's opponents average 7.31 yards every time they drop back to pass.