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Patriots vs. Broncos 2015 streaming: Time, TV schedule and how to watch 'Sunday Night Football' online

Instead of one last duel between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, this marquee matchup promises to be a defensive struggle.

At the start of the season, the Sunday night showdown involving the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos was expected to be one last duel between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. But with a depleted Patriots offense sputtering and Manning sidelined with an injury, two of the top defenses in the league will instead take center stage.

The Broncos announced Tuesday that Manning would miss at least two more weeks with a partially torn plantar fascia, meaning Brock Osweiler will make his second start of his career Sunday. Osweiler looked comfortable in Gary Kubiak's offense last week, completing 20 of 27 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns in Denver's 17-15 win over the Chicago Bears.

Though Manning is reportedly interested in playing next season, it's uncertain whether it will be with the Broncos. Osweiler is a free agent at the end of the year, and if he continues to play well, it will be difficult for Denver to let him go. Manning was putrid through the first 10 weeks of the season, throwing a league-leading 17 interceptions. On top of that, he appeared to be uncomfortable playing in Kubiak's system, which is more predicated on the quarterback standing under center instead of in the shotgun.

The 8-2 Broncos have largely won thanks to a stout defense, which is currently the No. 1 ranked unit in the league. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware form arguably the best pass rushing tandem in the NFL, and could have their way with an injury-riddled Patriots offensive line.

New England is playing the rest of the season without starting left tackle Nate Solder, who tore his triceps in October. The offensive line struggled mightily against the Buffalo Bills Monday night, allowing Brady to get hit on at least 10 occasions. The New York Giants sacked Brady three times and stripped him twice two weeks ago.

In addition to an undermanned offensive line, the Patriots' receiving corps has been wiped out over the last couple of weeks. Julian Edelman, who caught 258 passes over the last three years, is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season with a foot injury. On top of that, Danny Amendola and third-year wideout Aaron Dobson both exited Monday night's contest with injuries. The Patriots finished the game with only three healthy wide receivers on the roster.

Even if Amendola plays Sunday, Brady will still be lacking weapons offensively. In addition to Edelman, starting running back Dion Lewis is slated to miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. With Edelman and Lewis out, Denver will likely be able to keen in on Rob Gronkowski, who's been held to just 11 catches over the last three contests.

If the Patriots are going to keep their undefeated season alive, their defense will probably have to win the game -- and it appears to be up to the challenge. New England's defense is currently the top scoring unit in the league and has held opponents to an average of 14 points in the month of November.

Given the instability of Denver's quarterback situation and the barrage of injuries the Patriots are dealing with, Sunday's contest will likely be a defensive struggle. It's also the most important game in the AFC to date, with the Patriots currently holding a two-game lead over the Broncos for the best record in the conference. If they win, the road to the Super Bowl would be destined to go through Foxborough.

Even though fans will be robbed of one last Brady and Manning shootout, this is still one of the marquee games of the season.

How to Watch

When: 8:30 p.m. ET

Where: Mile High Stadium, Denver

TV: NBC

Commentators: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya

Online: NBC Sports