By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots are coming off of a dominating 52-28 away victory against the Buffalo Bills. They are looking to build some momentum this season as they are home this Sunday against the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium. Here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory.
WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live Sunday on WBZ-TV at 4:25 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
GAME NOTES: The Broncos are coming off of an impressive 37-6 home victory against the Oakland Raiders. The visitors are 2-2, and have been improving it seems from game to game.
On defense, the defensive line is solid, and is lead by defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who has the ability to be a game changer, and already has 2.5 sacks this season. Patriots offensive tackle Nate Solder will have his hands full on Sunday containing this player.
Another player to watch in this game is outside linebacker Vonn Miller, who already has three sacks. He can bring the pressure from the left side of the defense.
The secondary is still led by cornerback Champ Bailey, who is still one of the best in all of football at his position. I would advise Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to avoid throwing anywhere near this player.
On offense, this unit is led by quarterback Peyton Manning, who is still one of the best ever. He is only getting better each game he plays, and still such a threat to hurt you offensively every time he is on the field. His completion percentage rate is at 64 per cent, which tells me he is still extremely effective.
In the running game, Willis McGahee is still a very dangerous back, as he is averaging 4.7 yards per carry. The Patriots front seven will have to contain this running back.
In the passing game, the Broncos have two accomplished wide receivers, and they are Eric Decker and Damaryius Thomas. However, the Patriots also need to be concerned with tight end Jacob Tamme, who can be a dangerous weapon for Manning as well.
This is an important game for the Patriots at this stage of the season, and I do see them getting the victory eventually, but it certainly will not be easy. Whenever you face Manning, you know it is going to be a difficult game until the end.
Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.
1. The Patriots Offensive Tackles will have to do an exceptional job in pass protection. This was a key last week, and it certainly deserves to be one this week as well. The Patriots tackles are facing two exceptional pass rushers in Miller and Dumervil.
Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer both did an excellent job against the Bills last week. Brady will need some time to throw the ball, and the tackles will have to do their job again well on Sunday.
2. The Patriots offensively need to pick their spots with the running game. The Broncos are 9th in the NFL in defensive rushing yards with only giving up 87.5 yards per game.
I think the Patriots need to find the right situations to run the ball against an accomplished defense. If the Broncos use sub packages a great deal in this game, it could be a good time to run. Also, I think running the ball often in the second half of the game could be a huge plus to wearing down this defense.
3. Defensive Tackle Vince Wilfork needs to win his match-up with center Dan Koppen. I am a fan of the former Patriots center, but there is a reason he was cut by the Patriots, and I think you will see that on Sunday. Wilfork should know his opponent very well, and if he can bring pressure up the middle, it could affect Manning’s comfort level in the pocket.
4. The Patriots secondary needs to disguise coverages and be very aggressive in this game. You have to at least try to make things a little difficult on Manning, as he tries to figure out what coverage the Patriots are in.
Also, I feel the Patriots need to be aggressive with the Broncos receivers at the line, and try to throw off the timing of the receivers. Also, Manning completes a ton of passes on crossing routes. I feel the Patriots need to flood the middle of the field with defenders, and attempt to take away these routes.
5. Tavon Wilson needs to step up at Safety. Patriots safety Steve Gregory is ruled out of this game with an injury. Wilson will probably be asked to play even more of a role at safety in this game.
Wilson has played a decent amount this season at both safety, and actually at linebacker in certain situations in sub packages. In general, the play of the Patriots safeties has been shaky at best, and Wilson needs to be solid in knowing where he is on the field at all times, and just doing his job. The safeties are the last line of defense generally, and Wilson needs to be a rock at the back.
Now, I respect Manning a great deal, and I expect him to make his plays in this game. The Patriots secondary will be tested to see how much they can slow down the Broncos offense.
However, I feel the Patriots have a distinct advantage when they are on offense in this game. Brady carved up the Broncos defense twice last season, and I see him doing it once again. The Broncos do have a new defensive coordinator in Jack Del Rio, but Brady dominated his defenses when he was head coach with the Jaguars.
I think this game will be about which offense is better, and I would give a check mark to the Patriots. However, as mentioned it won’t be easy, and that is why I am predicting a 31-28 victory for the Patriots.
What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.
Also, please feel free to listen to a preview of the upcoming game from the radio show Patriots Fourth And Two.