It’s a short week for the Patriots, who are still licking their wounds following Monday night’s disappointing loss to the Panthers.  Fortunately they don’t have time to dwell on what occurred in those final moments down in Carolina as they now shift their focus to getting ready to take on a tough Broncos team that will likely be another tough match-up.  

There’s definitely a little more importance surrounding this one.  With Peyton Manning and company coming into town, New England suddenly finds themselves with what could be described as a “must win” game if they hope to control their destiny moving forward.


Tom Brady and the Patriots face another tough game this week against the Broncos. (USA TODAY Images)

Looking at the AFC playoff picture, both Denver and Kansas City at this point sit at 9-1 with six games to go, and at 8-3, Sunday night’s match-up could become a key game for New England in terms of playoff seeding.  If history is any indication the Patriots would be better served by not having to go to Denver should they reach the postseason. That’s a place they haven’t exactly fared well at over the years, although he hasn’t had much better luck at home either.  Brady is 2-3 in Denver, and just 1-2 against them in Foxboro, beating them for the first time at home in his career last season against Manning during a 31-21 win at Gillette Stadium back on October 7, 2012.

However, Denver’s offense is much improved this season. As Glen Farley of the Enterprise news points out, the Broncos enter Gillette Stadium this weekend having scored the third-most points in NFL history through 10 games, only 13 behind the 411 New England put up at this point when they scored a league record 589 during their unbeaten 2007 regular season.

Getting a win against Manning’s Broncos and then hoping Denver drops another game or two would hopefully help them have the opportunity to play this game in Foxboro should New England make it that far.  That’s quite a big “if” at this point considering the Patriots’ current personnel issues as they continue to have problems with their secondary.  Aqib Talib went down and couldn’t finish Monday night’s game, Alfonzo Dennard is reportedly expected to miss his second straight game, and Kyle Arrington is hampered with a knee injury that may end up affecting his availability for Sunday night.  Considering they’re about to take on one of the most prolific offenses in the league this weekend, these additional issues aren’t exactly what they needed.

They’ll definitely have their work cut out for them.  It was already tough enough losing the way they did Monday night, but one way to get their confidence back would be to go out and make a statement of their own by beating Denver.  A win against the Broncos could be just the turning point they need to get them back on track heading in the final month, and to gain some confidence as they try and start putting together a run toward the postseason.  Hopefully, in the meantime, they don’t sustain any further losses on defense, because in order to have a chance to knock off Denver, they’re going to need all the help they can get.

A DAY LATER, NINKOVICH STILL DISAGREES:

Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich appeared on WEEI on Tuesday and he still sounded quite unhappy with how the game ended.

“Both arms are being wrapped around the receiver as the ball’s in the air,” he said Tuesday on WEEI radio. “A foul’s a foul. No matter what it is, the ball’s there. It’s not like the ball’s 20 feet over his head or it lands on the 5-yard line or something.”

A lot of other players have chosen to take the high road to this point, so it was refreshing to hear Ninkovich give some honest thoughts about the play.  Hopefully it doesn’t cost him in terms of a fine, as the league doesn’t tend to think highly of players publicly criticizing officials.

PATRIOTS HIT THE 700 MARK:

During their loss to Carolina the Patriots ran 67 plays, bringing their regular season total to 700 so far through 10 games.  Looking at it by down, they’ve run 315 first down plays (62 first down conversions), 234 second down plays (76 first down conversions, and 137 third down plays (49 conversions).  They’ve also attempted 11 fourth down plays, with five conversions thus far.

JULIAN EDELMAN HAS COOLED OFF:

After getting off to a strong start, Patriots receiver Julian Edelman has cooled off since both Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola have returned to the line-up.   Here’s a look at his receptions through the first 10 games:

Week 1 at Buffalo – 9 targets, 7 receptions, 79 yds, 2 TD’s
Week 2 vs NY Jets – 18 targets, 13 receptions, 78yds
Week 3 vs Tampa Bay – 7 targets, 7 receptions, 44yds
Week 4 at Atlanta – 9 targets, 7 receptions, 118yds
Week 5 at Cincinnati – 7 targets, 2 receptions, 35yds
Week 6 vs New Orleans – 11 targets, 5 receptions, 57yds
Week 7 at NY Jets – 7 targets, 5 receptions, 44yds
Week 8 vs Miami – 2 targets, 2 receptions, 7yds
Week 9 vs Pittsburgh – 4 targets, 1 reception, 11yds
Week 10 at Carolina – 4 targets, 3 receptions, 27yds

*Denotes games where both Gronkowski & Amendola have played together
*Denotes Gronkowski’s return without Amendola

ON TO THIS MORNING’S LINKS:

BOSTON GLOBE:

Broncos should seem very familiar to Patriots fans - Ben Volin – Volin writes that when the Patriots look across the field on Sunday they’ll see a team that looks very similar to who they were from 2007-2012.

Scouting the Denver Broncos – Erik Frenz – Frenz has an entry this morning looking at the Broncos, and writes that Demaryius Thomas will be one of the key components New England will have to shut down on Sunday.

Patriots Take 2: Three Cam Newton scrambles that changed the game – Erik Frenz – Frenz takes a closer look at three plays by Newton that were major factors in the Patriots’ loss, with film breakdowns outlining each one.

Controversial end to Patriots’ loss still a hot topic – Shalise Manza Young – Manza Young has an article this morning looking at the fallout from what happened Monday night, with quite a few fans still having a tough time dealing with the outcome.

Patriots couldn’t contain Panthers’ Cam Newton – Shalise Manza Young – Manza Young files her notebook this morning, which leads off with New England’s coaches talking about their issues containing Newton.

Belichick will fire up troops after Carolina controversy – Alice Cook – Cook has an article on her reaction to Monday night’s game, and feels Belichick will do a good job of making sure his team is ready to go Sunday night against Denver.

BOSTON HERALD:

Callahan: Non-call interferes with logic – Gerry Callahan – Callahan has a column this morning where he feels the referees simply played to the crowd after they opted to pick up the flag Monday night.

Pats-Panthers: Five takeaways from the game – Jeff Howe – Howe has his five takeaways from Monday night’s loss, and rights that Aqib Talib was knocked off his game during the contest.

Patriots Report card – Ron Borges – Borges files his report card this morning and writes that New England lost the game because they relied on finesse with the game on the line instead of “Stone Age Football”.

Patriots feeling cornered – Jeff Howe – Howe files his notebook this morning and writes New England still has problems in their secondary heading into their match-up thanks to their ongoing inury issues.

Shane Vereen back with a bang – Jeff Howe – Howe has an article this morning on Vereen, who hit the ground running during his return Monday night.

ESPN BOSTON:

Catching up with former Patriots, Week 11 – Mike Reiss – Reiss has his weekly update on some former Patriots, including a favorite of his, Greg Salas, who has played 49 of 119 offensive snaps since making his debut with the Jets back on November 3rd.

Getting to know the Broncos – Field Yates – Yates takes a look at the Broncos, who he writes a case can be made that they’re the best team in football right now.

Patriots don’t have time to lick wounds – Field Yates – Yates writes that this is the second time a game ended on a bizarre call with the officials, and with a short week they have no choice but to move forward.

WEEI:

Cold Cut: When it comes to Pats secondary, there’s chilling truth to Steve Smith’s words – Christopher Price - Price looks at Smith’s comments after the game and writes that the secondary had been the most consistent area for New England prior to Monday night.

Wes Welker Appears to be Still Playing ‘At a Very High Level’ – Mike Petraglia – Petraglia takes a look at the Broncos and has comments from Matt Patricia, who had praise for the former receiver.

ENTERPRISE NEWS:

PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK: Broncos pursuing 2007 Patriots – Glen Farley – Farley writes that Denver will pull into Gillette with the third-most points in NFL history through 10 games, only 13 behind the 411 New England put up at this point when they scored a league record 589 during their unbeaten 2007 season.

WORCESTER TELEGRAM:

Shane Vereen, Kenbrell Thompkins are bright spots for Patriots – Rich Garven – Garven writes that both Thompkins and Vereen’s return were at least a couple of highlights during Monday’s loss to the Panthers.

Five plays doomed the Patriots – Rich Garven – Garven looks at several plays that ultimately were the difference in Monday’s outcome.