Sports

Patriots hobbling secondary must deal with Peyton Manning and NFL's best offense

  • New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib (31) runs during a stretching and drills session before practice begins  at the NFL football team's facility in Foxborough, Mass., Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. The Patriots will play the Denver Broncos Sunday night in Foxborough. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

    New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib (31) runs during a stretching and drills session before practice begins at the NFL football team's facility in Foxborough, Mass., Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. The Patriots will play the Denver Broncos Sunday night in Foxborough. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)  (The Associated Press)

  • Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith (89) catches a pass as New England Patriots' Aqib Talib (31) defends during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

    Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith (89) catches a pass as New England Patriots' Aqib Talib (31) defends during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)  (The Associated Press)

A healthy defense would have trouble against Peyton Manning.

So when six starters are sidelined, the task becomes much tougher.

The New England Patriots may find themselves in that predicament on Sunday night when Manning leads the Denver Broncos and their NFL-best offense into Gillette Stadium.

Starting safety Steve Gregory says the Patriots have a lot of defensive backs who are hurt, but it's the time of the season where that happens.

Gregory missed the Patriots' 24-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Monday night with a broken thumb and his status for the Denver game is unknown.

Starting cornerback Alfonzo Dennard also was sidelined with a knee injury and is expected to miss Sunday night's game. The other starting cornerback, Aqib Talib, couldn't finish the game because of a hip injury.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org