On Sunday the New England Patriots will be challenged on offense and on defense against a tough Denver Broncos team that has improved since last year. The most noticeable improvement has been on offense with the addition of Peyton Manning. For the Patriots to come away with a much needed win pushing their record back over .500, they will need a strong performance from their defensive line.
The strongest part of the Patriots defense is their defensive line while the weakest part of the defense is still their vulnerable secondary. With the addition of Manning, the Broncos aerial attack is a legitimate threat against any team and especially against the weak Patriots secondary. This makes the play of the defensive line even more important as they will need to put plenty of pressure on the All-Pro quarterback.
Interestingly, the Broncos offensive line happens to be the most questionable part of their offense. Other than Pro Bowler Ryan Clady, there are a lot of questions on the Broncos front line. Two of those questions include guard Chris Kuper whose 2011 season ended with a broken ankle and center Dan Koppen who was released by the Patriots shortly before the season started.
If the Patriots allow Manning enough time in the pocket Sunday, it will be a long afternoon. While Manning’s resume speaks for itself, his targets include Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Brandon Stokley. Each of these three receivers is legitimate threats down field and is improved by Manning’s presence.
While the Broncos passing game is a worrisome threat for the Patriots defense, they also have a Pro Bowl running back in the backfield. The Broncos success last season was in large part due to a spectacular season by Willis McGahee. Dominating the line will be of greater importance because if Manning doesn’t move the ball down field, McGahee likely will.
Last week in Buffalo, the Patriots defensive line was able to put pressure on the Ryan Fitzpatrick often which played a large part in them outscoring the Bills 45-0 in the second half. If the Patriots can put similar pressure on Manning Sunday, they will come away with the win. If not, the Patriots top-ranked offense could be forced to have a record setting day against a strong Broncos defense.