Broncos vs. Patriots. Manning vs. Brady. The return of Wes Welker.
As far as football is concerned, it doesn’t get much better than Sunday night as the Broncos take their show on the road to Foxboro, where they will meet Tom Brady and the New England patriots.
The last three times the Broncos and Patriots have played, it hasn’t been pretty. Even when the Broncos got out to an early lead at home in 2011 (with Tim Tebow, no less), they have still gotten beaten pretty handily by the Patriots, including a 31-21 loss in New England last year.
Side note: How do the Broncos play IN New England twice in consecutive years, in addition to a playoff loss at Foxboro the year prior?
Anyway, I think the Broncos have a good chance to beat New England on their home field Sunday night, not to discredit the Patriots but the Broncos are playing some of their best, most complete ball of the season right now, and the Patriots are banged up in the worst possible place.
But before I give to many of my bullet points away, let’s start from the top. Here are reasons why I feel like the Broncos will beat the Patriots on the road Sunday Night.
Improved Defensive Play
The Broncos’ defense has played absolutely lights out since their performance against the Colts, where they were crushed in the first half. In a three game stretch against Dallas, Jacksonville, and Indianapolis, the Broncos gave up 48, 19, and 39 points, and could have easily given up more to the Jags had it not been for a late fourth-quarter stop.
Giving up 106 points in three games is not desirable for any team, and given the return of Von Miller, it was surprising to see the Broncos give up 39 points to the Colts, but turnovers played a huge part in that.
Then, against Washington, something clicked. Despite giving up 21 points that game and trailing 21-7 at one point, the Broncos’ defense was almost perfect aside from one really long drive by the Redskins that resulted in a touchdown after a penalty on fourth down negated a field goal try and gave the Redskins a fresh set of downs.
Washington scored on that long drive, then again on a fumble by Peyton Manning, and once more on a pick-six. Needless to say, the scoring in that game–save for seven points that should have been three–was not the fault of the Denver defense.
Then against the San Diego Chargers, the Broncos’ defense came to play again, holding Philip Rivers and company to 20 points at home.
The following week, the Broncos’ prime time showdown against division rival and undefeated Kansas City, the defense was almost impenetrable. Jamaal Charles went nowhere, and the Chiefs managed to score only one touchdown and a field goal prior to garbage time of the game, where Denver needed only to run out the clock to secure a win. Even with the second touchdown in garbage time, the Broncos held the Chiefs to 17 points, and have almost cut the number of points allowed in half from the previous three games.
Pats’ Banged Up Secondary
A lot is up in the air right now, but the Patriots will almost assuredly be without cornerback Alfonso Dennard on Sunday Night, and also questionable for the game are star cornerback Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington, and safety Steve Gregory. There is no easy secondary to play against, but if the Patriots don’t have Talib OR Dennard for this game, things could get dicey on the back end for them.
The Broncos simply have the better offensive weapons in this game, and I know Brady is playing at home, but he no longer has Wes Welker or Aaron Hernandez, and I touched on that earlier in the week. The last few times the Patriots have beat the Broncos, it’s been either Hernandez or Welker that has come up huge, but for this game, the Broncos match up really well in terms of focusing on Rob Gronkowski and playing man coverage on Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, and Aaron Dobson.
Where the Broncos also have an edge is covering backs out of the backfield. Danny Trevathan is not only the team’s leading tackler this season, but he’s also developed into one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL. He will have the tough task of guarding Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley out of the backfield, and the Patriots also no longer have Danny Amendola at their disposal, a player who was a thorn in the side of the Broncos as well.
Broncos Offensive Line
The Broncos’ O-line is gellin’ right now. After some serious question marks rose when Peyton Manning was hit low by Chargers defensive lineman Corey Liuget, the Broncos line answered the call against Kansas City last week, the league’s best pass rush.
This unit proved that they could handle a complex 3-4 defensive look, one that features two of the best outside pass rushers in the league, as well as one of the top interior rushers in the NFL (Dontari Poe).
The Patriots bring another top pass rusher in Chandler Jones, who has 9.5 sacks, but Chris Clark, Orlando Franklin, and company have proven they are up to the task.
Of course all fans believe and will find reasons to believe their team can win, but the Broncos are a better team than the Patriots this year, and if they take care of business and don’t turn the ball over, this is a game–even on the road–that they should win.