For much of the last week the mainstream sports media has focused on Brock Osweiler replacing Peyton Manning as the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos. The leadoff for the four-letter network’s NFL pregame show centered on ‘can Osweiler beat Brady’, as if the two were playing one-on-one hoops.
Manning is a surefire first ballot Hall of Fame player, but the reality is that the switch to Osweiler has minimal negative affect on Denver; in fact, it makes the Broncos better. Now if you want to hop in a DeLorean and insert a pre-2014 Manning as the option then that is different topic of discussion – but science is not there yet.
Both teams will be without arguably their best defensive player, both outside linebackers, so that is a wash. Jamie Collins did not make the trip for New England, still recovering from the flu, while DeMarcus Ware is out for the Broncos due to a lower back injury. After that the list of key players (and their backups) that are unavailable is extremely one-sided.
The Patriots are missing their most important running back (Dion Lewis), who was also a vital part of their passing game; Lewis went on season-ending injured reserve three weeks ago. New England’s top receiver, Julian Edelman, is out for the rest of the regular season. Next man up at the position was Danny Amendola, but he will not play Sunday due to a knee injury. At least Brandon LaFell is healthy after missing the first six weeks with a foot injury. Number four wide receiver Aaron Dobson was placed on IR three days ago. Next in line would have been Brian Tyms and Brandon Gibson, but they too are on IR, and Josh Boyce was released with an injury settlement at the end of training camp.
So for a crucial game on the road against one of the NFL’s best defenses, Chris Harper and a hobbled Keshawn Martin (questionable with a hamstring injury) are elevated from what at one time were number eight and nine on the Pats depth chart to starters in a three-wideout formation. Let’s not forget that starting slot corner Tarrell Brown went on IR in mid-October, and his replacement, Justin Coleman, is out again with a hand injury. Then there is the revolving door known as the offensive line, punctuated by the loss of its most important player; the left tackle has to protect the quarterback’s blind side, but Nate Solder is also on IR.
This is not to say that Denver is not dealing with injuries, nor is it a pity party. Ryan Clady is on IR and Ware is out with the bad back. Left guard Evan Mathis is dealing with an ankle injury, but is expected to play. It just confounds me how there can be so much made of the switch from Manning to Osweiler – a move that helps rather than hurts Denver – while in comparison the injuries to New England are given a sub-heading, if not glossed over completely.
Would the Broncos be better off with Manning but without Ryan Harris, every receiver other than Emmanuel Sanders, and a few other key players, or with their current lineup?
We will find out if the battle of attrition has reached its tipping point for the Patriots later tonight.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 NFL Season 2015 Patriots 2015 Patriots Season Danny Amendola Denver Broncos Dion Lewis Injuries Julian Edelman Nate Solder New England Patriots Patriots injuries Week 12 Wide Receiver Injuries