For once, the matchup between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos isn't all about the quarterbacks.
With Peyton Manning in a walking cast and Tom Brady's supporting cast in disarray, this showdown in the snow Sunday night likely comes down to which dominant defense handles the atmosphere, the pressure and the passer the best.
"Obviously when you say the New England Patriots, you think Tom Brady, but this defense is going to be the best defense we played all year," Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders said.
Same goes for the Patriots.
Brady was equally impressed by Denver's pass rushers, led by Von Miller, and coverage men paced by Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr.
"These guys, it's a lot of tough, tight coverage," Brady said. "They put a lot of pressure on you. I think that's the mark of a good defense is putting pressure on the offense. ... They've limited teams to yards, points, turnovers, sacks, first-down defense. They're impressive in every statistical category."
Brock Osweiler won at Chicago last weekend in his first start after serving as Manning's backup for the first 62 games of his NFL career. He thought he was getting punked when told he'd been chosen AFC offensive player of the week.
"I didn't believe it at first. I really didn't. I thought everybody was joking with me," Osweiler said, laughing.
Manning was in good spirits himself after seeing a foot specialist and getting a plan for his recovery and rehab, one that could see him return to the lineup in late-December if all goes well.
Brady says he'll miss matching up with his long-time rival quarterback. But he'll likely miss not having some key parts on offense even more, particularly injured Julian Edelman, who is out, and Danny Amendola, who is unlikely to play. Aaron Dobson went on injured reserve this week.
"There's nobody that has more respect for Peyton than me, outside of probably his parents, his brother," Brady said. "If anybody can appreciate what Peyton has accomplished, it's me. He's just been remarkable in every part of his career. He's been a tremendous player."
So has Brady, of course. He has won five of his last six against Denver, passing for 17 touchdowns and two interceptions.