THE STORY: Tom Brady is hardly ever knocked out of the spotlight, which is saying something when you're married to a supermodel. However, the husband of Gisele Bundchen – and quarterback of the New England Patriots – has been relegated to second billing this weekend with the arrival of Tebowmania in Foxborough. Media lightning rod Tim Tebow will look to pull off a second straight stunning upset when he leads the visiting Denver Broncos against Brady and the Patriots on Saturday night. It will be a rematch of a Week 15 game in Denver, in which the Patriots erased an early deficit and rolled to a 41-23 victory – the first of three straight losses to close the regular season for the Broncos. Denver rebounded from the late swoon to shock the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23 last week on Tebow’s 80-yard scoring pass on the very first play of overtime.
TV: CBS, 8 p.m. ET. LINE: Patriots -13.5, O/U 50.5
ABOUT THE BRONCOS (8-8): Tebow rose from the ashes of two dreadful performances by throwing for a career-high 316 yards in the upset of the Steelers. Pittsburgh dared Tebow to beat him with his arm – and he did with four completions of at least 30 yards, including tosses of 51, 58 and 80 yards to Demaryius Thomas, who had four receptions for 204 yards. RB Willis McGahee rushed for 70 yards on seven carries before he was hurt in the first meeting with New England. The Broncos gashed the Patriots for 252 yards on the ground, including 167 in the opening quarter, but three lost fumbles that forced them into catch-up mode. Leading WR Eric Decker is not expected to play due to a knee injury.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (13-3): Despite an eight-game winning streak and last month’s comfortable victory at Denver, New England has plenty of reasons not to feel overconfident. The Patriots have lost their playoff opener – at home – in each of the past two seasons and developed a disturbing habit of falling behind early in their last three games of the regular season. New England fell behind 17-0 to Miami and 21-0 to Buffalo – both at home – before rallying. The one constant has been two-time MVP Brady, who threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns while getting picked off only 12 times. He has 19 TDs and two interceptions during the winning streak. The main concern is a defense that ranks 31st in the league, getting trampled for 411.1 yards per game.
1. The No. 1 seed is no guarantee of success in the AFC, compiling a 12-9 record since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990.
2. Brady is tied with Terry Bradshaw for the best postseason record (14-5) by a quarterback with at least 15 starts.
3. Ex-Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, who drafted Tebow and Thomas, joined New England’s staff this week.
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Key Players to Watch
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New England Patriots
- PersonalQues Sun | questionable
White has missed the last two games as he was away from the team due to a death in the family. It is unknown if he will return to the fold against the Chiefs on Sunday.
- AnkleOut indefinitely | I-R
Uche has been ticketed for the injured reserve list with an ankle injury, and it is uncertain when the team will activate him.
- NeckQues Sun | questionable
Keene has been held out of the past three games due to a neck injury, and it is unclear if he will make his season debut Sunday versus the Chiefs.
- ThumbOut indefinitely | I-R
Andrews has been entered on the injured reserve list while he is mend from surgery to repair a broken thumb on his right hand. There is no timetable for recovery.
- CalfQues Sun | questionable
Wynn has a calf injury, and it has yet to be established if he will be on the field for Sunday's battle with the Raiders.
- AnkleQues Sun | questionable
Dugger is hobbled by an ankle injury, and it is uncertain if he will be a participant in Sunday's game versus the Raiders.
- ShoulderQues Sun | questionable
Butler is dealing with a shoulder injury, and it is unknown if he will suit up against the Raiders on Sunday.
- KneeProb Sun | probable
Copeland is nursing a knee injury, but he is likely to be on the field Sunday against the Raiders.
- NeckDoub Thurs | doubtful
Flacco has been activated from the PUP list while recuperating from a disc repair surgery in his neck. He is unlikely to make his season debut Thursday against the Broncos.
- ShinOut indefinitely | I-R
Wilkinson has been ticketed for the injured reserve list due to a shin injury, and it is unknown when he will come back.
- AnkleProb Thurs | probable
Okwuegbunam has missed the past three games due to an ankle injury, but he is likely to make his season debut Thursday versus the Jets.
- HamstringQues Thurs | questionable
Harris sat out the previous game due to a hamstring injury, and it is up in the air if he will take the field against the Jets on Thursday.
- NeckProb Thurs | probable
Harris is nursing injuries to his neck and quad. It is anticipated that he will be available Thursday against the Jets.
- BackProb Thurs | probable
Jackson is battling a back injury, but he is expected to take part in Thursday's contest versus the Jets.
- WristProb Thurs | probable
Marshall is hampered by a wrist injury, but he is projected to be in Thursday's lineup versus the Jets.
- ToeProb Thurs | probable
Lindsay is sidelined due to turf toe, but he is likely to return to action against the Jets on Thursday.