Manning-Brady XIV Narrativemas Live Blog, First Half

Not to be deterred by a concussion, Wes Welker knows his presence is needed for the sake of narrative overload, concussion aftereffects be damned. By itself, Welker’s return to New England and his dredged up comments about playing under Bill Belichick made during the off-season would be enough to sustain storylines for most of a regular primetime game.

But this is another Manning-Brady encounter, so bloated with manufactured import that it now includes Roman Numerals. Never mind that this is hardly a rarity. Tom Brady is in his 14th season in the league, meaning this meeting of elitetitude occurs on average once a year. In fact, it’s already been determined that the Broncos and Patriots will face off again in the same place in the 2014 season.

Kansas City’s loss to San Diego lowers the stakes for the Broncos tonight. Even with a loss, they stay atop the AFC West and the conference at large. At the same time, dropping this game would only put New England a game behind Denver for home-field advantage in the playoffs by a game with the tiebreaker in their pocket.

Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard were reportedly being worked out a few hours before gametime to gauge their status for this evening. A depleted secondary would make it extremely difficult to see the Patriots stymieing the Denver offense. That would likely mean the Patriots winning in a shootout. They’re certainly capable, but even with the Patriots’ offensive skill players finally getting healthy, I wouldn’t like their chances of matching score for score missing their top corners.