FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts — Tom Brady is too busy concerning himself with what he calls "the best defense in the NFL" to spend much time thinking about missing another matchup with Peyton Manning.
That's not keeping the New England Patriots quarterback from tipping his helmet to his long-time adversary.
"There's nobody that has more respect for Peyton than me, outside of probably his parents, his brother," Brady said Wednesday. "If anybody can appreciate what Peyton has accomplished, it's me. He's just been remarkable in every part of his career — he's been a tremendous player.
"It's unfortunate - everyone deals with different injuries at different times. It just happens to be this week," Brady said. "They won last week with the guy (Brock) Osweiler they had last week."
Brady is 11-5 against Manning, 9-3 regular season. This week, the 10-0 Patriots will visit the 8-2 Broncos on Sunday night - and Manning will be sidelined because of a foot injury.
Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said Wednesday Manning's right foot will be in a cast "for at least a week."
Brady, who took a physical pounding from the Buffalo Bills in Monday night's 20-13 win, said he feels great but knows what he can expect Sunday.
"This defense that we're playing is the best defense in the NFL," he said. "They do everything well. It's pretty challenging to find things on tape that you like. We have to be smart with the ball — that's a huge key to the game, is them being able to take it off of you and return it for touchdowns and so forth."
Brady said the Broncos use tight coverage and pressure.
"They put a lot of pressure on your skill guys to get open in coverage because they don't give you anything," he said. "They've limited teams to yards, points (second in the NFL, to New England), turnovers, sacks, first-down defense . they're impressive in every statistical category."
Two games ago, Brady lost slot receiver Julian Edelman to a broken foot. Monday night, Danny Amendola caught nine passes and then suffered a sprained knee that has him in doubt for Sunday. The Patriots also lost wide receiver Aaron Dobson to an ankle injury.
The Patriots were down to two receivers and one of them, Chris Harper, had just been brought back from the practice squad.
Asked what allows his team to overcome the challenges of being banged up in a short week, Brady said: "Mental toughness - that's what it comes down to."
"We're off to a good start, but it really doesn't mean anything. So whatever happens after this Thursday is what's going to matter to our season, and this is when we need to start playing well," he said.
Amendola and CB Justin Coleman (hand) were among those who did not participate in Wednesday's practice. ... Despite reports, Patriots safety Devin McCourty won't rule out seeing Manning Sunday. "We gotta be ready -- you never know," he said. "He could be out there. The guy's a veteran quarterback who's played and been through a lot. We don't know. It's just Wednesday." ... The Patriots have a five-game Sunday night winning streak and have won five of the last six games against Denver. In 2013, also on Sunday night, New England rallied from 24 points down and won 34-31 - the greatest Patriots comeback of all-time. ... The Broncos and Patriots played in the first AFL game in 1960 - and Boston University Field.