The Denver Broncos head back east to take on the New England Patriots on Sunday. The game features, arguably, the two best quarterbacks in the league over the past 15 years. There will be a lot made about Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady, and there should be but chances are they will both play very well. The game will be decided by the other players on each team.
For the Broncos to pull out a road win versus the Patriots, they have to run the ball. Both teams are going to score points but if the Broncos can limit possessions for the Patriots by running the ball, and then their chances increase. Willis McGahee will get the tough yards inside as he always does. If McGahee is effective, then that will open up the rest of the offensive game plan. The wildcard for the Broncos offense this week could be rookie running back, Ronnie Hillman. Hillman got his first extended playing time last week and flashed a little of his big play ability on a 29 yard reception. Sunday is going to be a game of big plays and anyone of them could be the difference, and that could come from a guy like Hillman.
The Patriots defense is better than they were in 2011 but there are still plays to be made in the passing game. There are no big secrets here; if the Broncos protect Manning then he is going to have a big day throwing the football. Manning and the passing game has progressed in every game and there’s no reason to believe that progress will not continue on Sunday. Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and the other receivers must make plays when the ball is thrown their way, and drops cannot happen. Every possession is going to be huge, so the Broncos cannot stop themselves with drops.
The offense for the Patriots is going to look a little different for those who haven’t seen them play in 2012, they can run the ball. Stevan Ridley has turned into a very good running back that gives the Patriots a dimension they have not had in quite a while. The passing game for the Patriots is as good as ever, and Brady loves to spread the ball around. The Broncos do catch a little break as tight end; Aaron Hernandez probably will not play. However Rob Gronkowski will play, and that’s bad news for the Broncos. Tight ends have hurt them all season and Gronkowski is better than anything they’ve seen to date.
In addition to the running game and the play of Gronkowski, the Patriots have two very good wide receivers in Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker. The Broncos are not going to shut down the Patriots, they just have too many weapons but if they are going to slow them down then it has to be with the pass rush. There’s no secondary in the history of football that would be able to defend this group led by Brady for very long. Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller and company must have a big day in terms of the pass rush. It is very difficult to sack Brady but the Broncos must pressure him and hit him when they can. In addition to the pass rush, the Broncos have to get off of the field on third downs. When the defense is able to force a third and eight, they must take advantage of that and force the Patriots to punt.
The potential turning point for both teams is turnovers and to date, the Patriots have the advantage in that area. They scored 45 points in the second half versus the Buffalo Bills last week and a lot of that was due to turnovers forced by their defense. In a game that figures to be high scoring, extra possessions will be huge. Turnovers in any game are big, but the team that forces more of them on Sunday is likely to win the football game.
The Denver Broncos are making progress and they are on the right track, but this is a tough spot. The game will be close throughout and the Broncos will have a punchers chance in the fourth quarter. Prediction- 34-30 Patriots.
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