By Rick Brown
Almost two years ago, the Denver Broncos (3-5) and the New England Patriots (6-2) met in Denver for the AFC Championship game. The Broncos were able to beat the Patriots and went on to win Super Bowl 50.
Fast forward to 2017 and the Broncos are in last place in the AFC West and things are looking pretty grim. A rookie head coach in Vance Joseph and a revolving approach to who is going to play quarterback has caused this Broncos offense to be among the worst in the league. While the Broncos seem to be in a tail spin, the Patriots continue with the team’s winning ways.
New England Patriots (6-2)
After a historical comeback in Super Bowl 51, the Patriots are now looking to pull off back-to-back Super Bowl wins (they are also the last team to have done so in 2004-05). The Patriots offense is firing on all cylinders as Tom Brady looks indestructible. Rob Gronkowski has been battling through injuries all season, but expect him to have a big game against the Broncos defense.
The Patriots have the No. 1 offense in the league in yards per game. The team is first in passing yards per game while only 16th in rushing yards per game, which is surprising considering the No. 1 receiver is running back James White. The Patriots went all out in free agency and traded for Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints (6-2). The passing game was expected to be a lethal weapon with Gronkowski, Cooks, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. But then Edelman tore his ACL, and suddenly the Patriots’ passing game was down an important player. As usual though, New England lived up to its mantra—next man up. Brady continues to put up huge numbers and is a legitimate contender for the NFL MVP.
The Patriots’ running game is a cornucopia of running backs. Along with White, the Patriots have Mike Gillislee, Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead. It is a good thing the offense is stacked, because the Patriots defense is not performing well.
The Patriots defense is last in the league in yards allowed per game (417.0). The defense also gives up the most passing yards per game (295.5) while the team is 25th in rushing yards against (121.5). If the Broncos offense had any chance of winning, it would be because the defense would let the Patriots offense down. The N.E. defense is still full of talent with Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Malcolm Bulter, but the team is not performing well as a unit. During the last few weeks, teams with bad defenses have performed really well against the Broncos’ anemic offense.
Players To Watch
The Broncos defense did not perform well against the Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) when the team gave up 51 points. Look for Brady to come into the Mile High City and throw for a lot of yards against the Broncos’ No Fly Zone. The Broncos secondary continues to have issues when it comes to covering tight ends. In five regular season games against Denver, Gronkowski has 30 catches for 371 yards and three touchdowns. Also expect matchup problems between Cooks and Broncos’ cornerback Bradley Roby. Last week, Roby did not perform well and gave up a lot of big plays. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will attack the Broncos secondary and try to earn a victory in Denver.
This used to be a marquee matchup on the NFL calendar, but since the retirement of Peyton Manning, the game has not had that same fervor. Two years ago, Brock Osweiler led the Broncos to a comeback win. Last year, the Broncos did not show up to play and lost 16-3. While Osweiler did play well against the Patriots, that was two years ago; a lot has changed, especially for the Broncos. Don’t be surprised to see the Broncos continue to perform poorly and hand the Patriots a big win in Denver.