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Big 12 friends square off in Foxboro.

When the Patriots and Denver Broncos meet this afternoon, there will be intriguing and influential matchups all over the field, one of which will be when left tackle Nate Solder and linebacker Von Miller are lined up across from one another in pass rushing situations.

In this case, it's about more than football. The two have a relationship going back to college when Solder played for Colorado and Miller played for Texas A&M, which was in the Big 12 at the time. They also trained together before the 2011 draft, in which the Broncos selected Miller second overall and the Patriots scooped up Solder 12 picks later.

"We're real good friends off the field,'' Miller said. "Nate, that's one of my guys. I see him every offseason. We hang every offseason. Nate is just one of those guys, a super classy guy. I enjoy being around him, but Sundays I just have to get my suit on. We have to play football, and every year we have a pretty good matchup.''

Miller currently ranks second in the NFL with nine sacks and has 44 sacks in 47 career regular-season games. He totaled eight tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in each of the past two regular-season meetings with the Patriots (he missed the AFC Championship due to a knee injury).

"I enjoy playing against Nate, and I know he enjoys playing against me, too,'' Miller said. "I enjoy going against the best tackles. When you go against the better tackles, it makes you a whole lot better. It has you on your A-game, and Nate is definitely one of the better tackles in the league.''

Champions reunion

Twenty-two players were members of all three of the Patriots' Super Bowl champion teams. Seventeen of them will be reunited and honored at halftime today in recognition of the 10th anniversary of winning that third Lombardi Trophy.

The great group: Joe Andruzzi, Tom Ashworth, Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Matt Chatham, Je'Rod Cherry, Kevin Faulk, Ted Johnson, Ty Law, Matt Light, Willie McGinest, Stephen Neal, Patrick Pass, David Patten, Lonie Paxton, Roman Phifer and Richard Seymour.

The five players who won't take part in the ceremony have pretty good excuses. Tom Brady and Adam Vinatieri (Colts) are still playing, while Larry Izzo (Giants), Mike Vrabel (Texans) and Adrian Klemm (UCLA) are coaching.

The return of Seymour, who is retired and living in Atlanta, is welcome as he didn't depart New England on the best of terms after the Patriots shipped him to the Oakland Raiders just days before the start of the 2009 season.

Seymour earned five of his seven Pro Bowl berths and four of his five All-Pro selections with the Patriots, who drafted him sixth overall in 2001. He should join Brown (2012), Bruschi ('13) and Law ('14) in the Patriots Hall of Fame in short order.

Inside the lines

Some quick hits and (hopefully) useful numbers with regard to this week's games: The Broncos are 21-5 (.808) since the start of last season with 20 of the wins by a touchdown or more. The underdog Patriots are 41-3 (.932) at home since 2009. ... The Bengals are 12-0-1 (.962) in their previous 13 home games. The Jaguars are 5-25 (.167) in their previous 30 road games. ... The Cowboys are 7-21 (.250) in their last 28 games against the number as a home favorite as they host the Cardinals, who have won three straight in the series and 13 of 16 (.813) overall dating to last season. Additionally, Cardinals QB Carson Palmer is 4-0 this season with two TD passes in every game. ... The Jets are 1-5-1 against the number during their seven-game losing streak. ... The Chargers and Dolphins have combined to score 44 points or less in their last 11 meetings. Furthermore, the Dolphins are 10-36 (.217) in their last 46 games against the number as a home favorite. ... 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick has won three straight against the Rams, by 24, 10 and 14 points, with six TDs and no interceptions. ... The Raiders have lost 13 straight dating to last season, but are 9-3 (.750) against the number in their last 12 games as a double-digit underdog. ... The Ravens and Steelers have combined to score 44 points or less in 14 of the past 15 meetings. ... Colts QB Andrew Luck is 11-11 all-time on the road.

Teams on the bye: Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Tennessee. And how those coming off it have historically fared: New York Giants (10-15, .400), San Francisco (10-14-1, .420).

Fourth and one

Some random thoughts in no particular order:

Brady is 10-5 all-time against Peyton Manning. But Manning has a 5-4 edge in the past nine meetings, which includes a remarkable comeback victory with the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship in 2006 and an authoritative decision with the Broncos in the AFC Championship in 2013. So not as lopsided a rivalry as New Englanders like to think it is.

Seven of the past eight regular-season meetings between Brady and Manning have taken place in November, which coincidentally (ha, ha) happens to be a sweeps month. The Super Bowl also just happens (ha, ha) to take place in a sweeps month, February. The league should just stick TV on the NFL shield.

Twelve of the 16 teams in the AFC still harbor legitimate playoff aspirations, including, yes, the Bills, who start today a game behind the Patriots in the East. The Jets, Jaguars, Titans and Raiders are realistically, if not mathematically, eliminated.

Congratulations and best wishes to Lancaster Chief of Police Kevin Lamb, who will retire Friday after having spent the past 34 years on the force. His devotion to the Patriots will continue.

If you're registered, please take the time to vote Tuesday. If you're not registered, please take the time to do so Wednesday.

Material used in this report was collected from personal interviews, wire services, websites, and league and team sources. Contact Rich Garven

at rgarven@telegram.com.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 2, 2014
Words:998
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