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Broncos at Patriots: Top Five Storylines

Manning-Brady XIV

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are set to square off for the 14th time in their careers on Sunday.

Brady holds a 9-4 edge in the previous 13 games, including wins in three of the last four matchups.

"We've played against each other a number of times," Manning said. "Of course we were playing them twice a year because we were playing them in the playoffs and they were in our division at one point back in Indy, back in 2001. We both finished first place in the division a lot, it seemed like I sure do go there a lot out there to Foxborough (laughing)."

Brady's Patriots earned victories in the first six head-to-head matchups before Manning's Colts won the next three in a row. Since then, Brady has emerged victorious in three of the last four, including last year's 31-21 Patriots win against the Broncos.

Manning has the edge in total completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns in the matchups, while Brady holds the advantage in interceptions and passer rating.

"I think it's pretty well-documented my respect for Tom as a quarterback," Manning said. "The way he prepares, just the way he is better each season than the one before, which tells you how he obviously approached the offseason, takes care of his body, challenges himself every single year. Those are a couple of the many things that are impressive about him as a quarterback."

Homecoming for Welker?

Wide receiver Wes Welker returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday as he recovers from neck/concussion injuries that took him out of Denver's Week 11 win vs. Kansas City.

If he is able to play on Sunday, it will mark a homecoming for the wide receiver who caught 672 passes for 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns in six seasons playing for the Patriots.

"Definitely excited," he said. "It's a big game, a big matchup. Great environment, everything else – I really look forward to it."

Welker topped the 100-catch and 1,100-yard marks in all but one of those seasons in New England.

Now he's hoping to be healthy enough to return and play as an opponent on the same field that he called home for those six seasons.

"I want to be out there. I mean, there's not too many games I've missed in my whole career and I love playing the game, especially in big atmospheres like this. So I'm doing everything possible in my power to make sure that I get the opportunity to play in a game like this."

Cold-Weather Matchup

With the forecasted temperatures for Sunday's matchup in Foxborough, Mass., mimicking those at Dove Valley on Thursday, the team used those weather conditions at practice to get ready for what they could face during the game.

The Broncos practiced in blustery conditions after a few inches of overnight snow and said that the session would be a big help in preparing for Sunday night's game.

"(It was) a real blessing for us to be able to work today in the elements," Interim Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "Today it was nice because that's what we're going to face not only this week but as we finish the year."

Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase agreed that the decision to practice outside in the elements will be beneficial for the team going forward — particularly this weekend.

"I was glad it was cold just because we know what to expect on Sunday," he said. "For us to have to go through our normal routine, get loosened up, get out there and get the blood flowing in that kind of weather, it's really helpful for us."

Players got to test out different equipment at practice to see what was most comfortable in the cold.

"You just have to keep your hands warm and there's a lot of new technology that allows that," wide receiver Eric Decker said. "I think the biggest thing in the cold weather might be the wind factor. It might be a little bit more windy, the East coast is always windy and that's something you have to be prepared for and have some mental toughness. Football is football and both teams have to deal with it."

Primetime Matchup

For the second week in a row, the Broncos will appear on NBC's Sunday Night Football.

With two future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks that have combined for more than 11,000 yards and 818 touchdowns on the same field, the matchup becomes must-see television.

"I'm pretty sure a lot of guys will have some more juice just because it's a Sunday night game," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "But it's just another big game that we need a 'W.'"

Familiar Foe

Believe it or not, the Patriots and Broncos are not in the same division. But given the amount of times the two teams have squared off in recent years, it'd be understandable to think that they were.

Sunday's game will be the sixth matchup between Denver and New England in the past six years. Sunday's game will be the third in a row that takes place at Gillette Stadium.

On top of that, the Broncos are slated to travel to New England again next year.

New England is 4-1 in those games with Denver's last victory over the Patriots coming back in 2009. Overall, the Broncos lead the all-time series 25-18 and are 9-9 on the road.

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