Pats Preview: Pats @ Broncos
As the New England Patriots prepare for their Week 10, Sunday night showdown with the Denver Broncos, in Colorado, here are some pregame story lines to keep in mind:
Coming Off The Bye- The Pats will be coming off of their bye week, as they take the field against the Broncos on Sunday. After the week of rest, the Pats will embark on a stretch of five road games within six contests.
Building On Road Success- The Pats will look to continue their road success on Sunday, as they carry an 11-game road win streak into Denver. The streak started last season, with the Pats playing a perfect road schedule last year. They have started off this season 3-0. New England has struggled to win in Denver, going 10-21 there throughout their franchise history.
A Top Tier Battle- The game will feature a match up between the league's top offense and second ranked defense. New England's offense, led by future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady ranks atop the league with 411 total yards per game, while the Denver defense has been its typically stingy self so far this season, holding opponents to just over 280 yards per game. Most notably, might be the match up between Brady and Denver pass defense. Through his first eight games, the 40-year-old has averaged 317.6 yards passing, while the Broncos have held opposing QBs to just 192.4 yards through the air. Whoever wins that battle could help swing the momentum of the game in their team's favor.
Going To The Backs- With Denver's pass defense capable of getting to Brady quickly and clamping down on his limited group of outside receivers, expect the veteran to utilize his depth out of the backfield to neutralize the Broncos' attack. Guys like James White, Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead, who all enter the game healthy, could be called upon to bring their dual threat abilities to the forefront and create mismatches against Denver's linebackers and safeties. If the group of backs can regularly slip out of the backfield and beat their coverage, Brady should be able to get the ball out quick enough to offset the pass rush and the team should be able to keep the ball moving downfield all night long.
Marty B Is Back- The Pats brought back veteran tight end Martellus Bennett this week, after claiming him off waivers from the Green Bay Packers. Bennett was cut by the Packers, after a discrepancy with an injury. Last season, Bennett played a large role in the offensive success for New England and filled in nicely for Rob Gronkowski, who was lost to injury mid season. With back up tight end Dwayne Allen failing to live up to expectations, so far this season, the addition of Bennett, who is dealing with a torn rotator cuff but will likely play through it, could be a big boost for the offense. The Pats have struggled this year in the red zone, so adding another big target with skill on the goal line could help boost the unit's production in the second half of the season. It is questionable whether or not Bennett will play on Sunday.
Questions On The Edge- The Pats enter the game with some questions regarding the blocking along the edge, as starting right tackle Marcus Cannon will miss the game with an ankle injury. That means that backup tackles LaAdrian Waddle and Cam Fleming will likely each be called upon, in some capacity, to play for Cannon. With Denver's strong set of edge rushers, expect them to test the competancy of both Waddle and Fleming, early and often. If the two can hold their own, when they are on the field, the team should be able to move the ball. If, however, they are not up to the challenge, Brady could be in trouble.
Bad Offense- While their defense has been close to the same juggernaut it has been over the past handful of years, this season, the Broncos have stumbled their way to a lowly 3-5 mark on the season. That has been thanks in large part to the truly pathetic quarterback play they have seen and the overall ineptitude of the offense as a whole. Starting quarterback Trevor Siemian had been dreadful through the first eight weeks of the season and his backup, former starter and overall bust Brock Osweiler, looked anything but good first opportunity of the season last week. Osweiler is getting the ball on Sunday, but an improving Patriot defense shouldn't be too worried about that.
Bronco Blunders- The Broncos have had a number of blunders through the first half of the season, turning the ball over 12 more times than their opponents. If the Pats, who boast a +4 turnover ratio, can continue the success of Denver opponents in taking the ball away from the Broncos, New England should be able to cruise to a win.
Prediction- The Pats enter the game as the clear better team and the Broncos seem to be on a path to self destruction. So, while New England always seems to struggle playing in Denver and weird things happen from time to time in the thin air, the Pats, coming off of a bye, should be able to put the Broncos in their rear view mirror quickly. Look for Brady, short-handed and up against a strong defense, to find enough holes to exploit, while the defense continues its bounce back from a dreadful start. Thanks to a likely-to-crash Brocketship, the Pats could ride a few key defensive plays to a victory.
Pats 27, Broncos 13