By: Russ Goldman
After a convincing win against Colts, the Patriots are back in the AFC Championship Game, and they face the Broncos. Here are Five Things for you to look for in this match-up.
1. Can the Patriots score points early and often against the Broncos? Scoring early was a key last week against the Colts, and it was a huge factor in the victory. When the Patriots are playing from ahead, the confidence level lately with the team goes way up.
Facing a Broncos team on the road, the best thing they can do is to score early, which could take the crowd out of the game for a bit, and really put the pressure on the Broncos to respond to adversity.
Peyton Manning and his offense has the ability to control the pace of this game, but so does Tom Brady with the Patriots. If the Pats score early and often, I like the chances of the team to get to the Super Bowl.
2. Can the Patriots have a consistent passing attack? The Broncos happen to be pretty good at stopping the run on defense. They also are without one of their best cornerbacks in the secondary, as Chris Harris was recently put on injured reserve. The Patriots over the years have been excellent at taking advantage of a weakness they identify with their opponent.
Even without Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots should be able to take advantage of the Broncos pass defense. A player to watch in this game could be Danny Amendola. You would figure that the Broncos will key on Julian Edelman. Amendola could be huge in this game for the Patriots.
If I were the Patriots, I would take some deep shots early to loosen up that defense. The Patriots have enough weapons to expose this defense, and if they are successful, it will open up the running game. This game could be about throwing the ball, to open up the ground game.
3. Can the Patriots defense be physical with the Broncos wide receivers at the line of scrimmage? I think this is a huge key in this game, as the Broncos offense is all about timing patterns. If you can press these players at the line, you might be able to throw off the timing of these routes, which could lead to mistakes by Manning.
If the officials let them play, the Patriots could have a way of slowing down this Denver offense by playing physical. The Patriots defense in general needs to be very physical today.
4. Can the Patriots defense contain tight end Julius Thomas? He did not play in the first match-up, and is a handful to deal with. This is a player you might have to double-team to slow down. He might not be Rob Gronkowski, but he is a rising star in the league, and a player extremely difficult to defend.
I have a feeling linebacker Jamie Collins will be covering him with help. If they can limit his receptions, that could be a huge help as well in slowing down the Denver offense.
5. Can the Patriots win the turnover battle? In a Championship Game, turnovers can honestly change the game. If the Patriots can win this battle with the turnover margin in their favor, the Super Bowl could be the next step for this team.
In concluding, it is easy to say that this game could go either way, but I feel the Patriots will win this as a team, because Championship Games are usually won by all three units, and not just one. I see the Patriots winning the AFC Championship Game 34-24, which would see them back in the Super Bowl.
If you are looking for more of an extensive preview of this game, please take a listen below to Patriots Fourth And Two.
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