Brady-Manning XIII and the hype machine

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Brady-Manning XIII and the hype machine

FOXBORO -- The two best quarterbacks of their generation -- arguably of any generation -- will meet once again at Gillette Stadium on Sunday in Brady-Manning XIII. And it could be the last time.

If there's going to be a XIV, it'll have to come in the postseason or the two teams will have to finish in the same place in their respective divisions. And it'll have to come soon because the boys are getting up there -- Peyton Manning will be 37 in March; Tom Brady turns 36 next August.

They've gone through this process enough by now to know how it works in the days leading up to their teams' meeting. Their job is simple. Lob verbal bouquets infused with the baby's breath of respect and admiration until Friday. And then try to eviscerate the other guy's defense on Sunday.

This ain't the Decatur Staleys against the Providence Steamrollers and it's not 1931. Brady and Manning don't need to carnival bark to help this game get attention. We all take care of that for them.

Asked if he wearies of speaking about playing "against" someone who he only touches when he shakes hands with Manning before and after the game, Brady said, "At the end of the day, its the Patriots versus the Broncos. I have a job to do and the defensive guys have a job to do," Brady said.

He did, however, indicate that there may be a different mindset with the Patriots offense against Manning than when it faces a garden variety Locker, Kolb or Fitzpatrick.

"You're not blind to the fact that theres a great player on the other side of the ball that is capable of having a great performance," Brady allowed. "I think you realize that thats a part of the game. He's going to complete passes, they're going to gain yards. Its just a matter of us playing a better 60-minute game, being good on third down, being good in the red area, situationally being good."

And if you listened closely, you heard Brady allude to the history between these teams. He may not have meant to, but when Brady talked about the competitiveness of these matchups, he seemed to reference the 2009 meeting in Indy and the infamous Fourth-and-2 game.

"If we have an opportunity to win the game at the end, thats what youve got to do," Brady added. "It seems like it has always come down to the end against him. When he was playing for the Colts, it was always close games. Theyve been in every game theyve played this year, right down to the end. The two games they lost, the other team was in a four-minute offense and really made a couple critical first downs there at the end to win to not give them the ball back."

Plumbing the interpersonal relationship between Manning and Brady has yielded little. They're friends and maintain contact but they don't seem to run in the same circles.

The competition and rivalry we as media or fan "experts" are forever taking stock of is not the cutthroat one that, say, Magic-Bird was in the early days.

"He's a friend of mine," said Brady. "We dont talk much during the season, but I think hes someone that certainly Ive always looked up to and admired and really respected the way he plays the position, the way he works, the way he leads. Hes been a phenomenal player and we played against him a long time at the Colts -- it felt like very year -- so you see a lot of those games and obviously I have learned a lot from him."

But neither Brady nor Manning will be thinking about the day they played golf at Cypress Point or how they both missed full seasons but came back to play again or whether they'll enter the Hall of Fame on the same August day in the next decade or so.
They will be worried about themselves and their jobs, said Brady.

"We have to score more points than the other team," he pointed out (helpfully). "If they score 10, weve got to score 11. If they score 40, weve got to score 41. I think thats more the mindset. Hopefully the defense goes out there and plays a great game. At the same time, you have to expect to play a great game as well. You cant think that you're going to score 20 points and think its good enough or 30 points and think its good enough. Whatever they score, we have to score more."

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

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Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)

Brady on Trump shout-out before inauguration: 'Let's talk about football'

Brady on Trump shout-out before inauguration: 'Let's talk about football'

FOXBORO -- It seems as though Tom Brady might wish Donald Trump would stop telling everyone that they're such good pals.

On Thursday night, the soon-to-be 45th president of the United States said that Brady was "feeling good" and that Brady called him to congratulate him on the eve of his inaguration. On Friday afternoon, Brady looked uncomfortable at the mention of Trump's name during a press conference at Gillette Stadium. 

When Brady was asked about Trump soon after the inauguration ceremony on Friday, he hesitated.

"I don't have much to say," said Brady.

Brady was then reminded that during a dinner for donors in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Trump mentioned a recent phone call between them, when Brady expressed his support for the new president. 

"Umm," Brady said. "Did I call him . . ."

"He said you did," a reporter replied. 

"Oh," Brady said. "Let's talk about football."

In other words, as his coach would say, "We've got a big game."