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Nov 2, 2014 at 9.25pm UK at ​Gillette Stadium
Denver Broncos
New England Patriots
Hillman (3:54)
Edelman (11:41, 8:11), Vereen (0:08)
Thomas (11:06), Hillman (5:50)
LaFell (7:27)
Gronkowski (13:57)

AFC showdown: Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots

Sports Mole looks ahead to the AFC showdown clash between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady face off for the 16th time.

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady meet for the 16th time in their careers on Sunday as the Denver Broncos travel to face the New England Patriots in a clash to seize control of the number one seed in the AFC.

Manning secured the victory the last time the sides played in the AFC championship game in January as the 38-year-old threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns to book a place in the Super Bowl, where the Broncos were manhandled by the Seattle Seahawks.

John Fox's side's offense is still just as potent as the one that broke the NFL single-season record for points scored, while Manning is on pace for another campaign like the one that saw him smash the record for passing touchdowns last year.

The biggest difference to their team that faced the Patriots last season is their defense, who are ranked fourth overall in the NFL. General manager John Elway splashed out to land safety TJ Ward, defensive end DeMarcus Ware and former Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib.

The addition of those players, along with the return from injury of All-Pro linebacker Von Miller have made Fox's side a formidable unit, and arguably the most well-rounded team in the league.

Their one defeat this season came at the hands of the Seahawks in overtime in September at CenturyLink Field, as Denver appeared to put some of their demons from their Super Bowl loss behind them to embark on a four-game winning streak.

However, that run will be tested by the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, who have not lost to an opponent from the AFC in their last 33 home games. Bill Belichick's side's last defeat at home came in December 2012 against the San Francisco 49ers.

Manning has perennially struggled on his trips to Foxborough as he posted a 2-10 record in his matches in the area. The weather affected his game last season in the Broncos' overtime defeat and he could face similarly poor conditions this time around.

If the weather doesn't affect him the Patriots' secondary might. After losing Talib to the Broncos, New England hit back by signing three-time All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner from the Seahawks.

The duo, along with Belichick's other defensive backs, provide the best matchup for Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas this season, which may be enough to halt the Manning juggernaut and ease the burden on Brady and his offense.

The match will likely be decided on the shoulders of Brady, who has returned to the peak of his powers after a below-par start to the season. No player in the league had a better month of October than the 37-year-old and he will need to continue that form against the Broncos.

Miller and Ware on the edge pose a powerful threat to disrupt the Patriots' passing game, while the cornerback tandem of Talib and Chris Harris will look to take Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman away from Brady.

However, All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski has also found his feet after his ACL tear last season, and has the ability to destroy and defensive gameplan if he's not contained. If he's allowed to thrive like he did against the Chicago Bears last week, the Patriots will be in control of the AFC come Monday morning.

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Jacob Tamme #84 celebrates his second quarter touchdown with Eric Decker #87 as Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos looks on during their AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 19, 201
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