The New England Patriots begin the second half of the regular season when they travel to take on the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football.
This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC on Sunday, November 12 at 8:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on NBC Boston – 10. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.
The Patriots (6-2) are coming off the bye week. In their last game, they defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 21-13. They are banged up and missing several key players.
The Broncos (3-5) return home after an ugly 51-23 shellacking at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles. They’ll be looking to get back on track at the hands of their hated rivals, who they always seem to beat in Denver.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.
The Patriots and Broncos have met since the beginnings of the old AFL in 1960 and the games have always gone in streaks. However, in Denver, the Patriots always seem to play poorly and have had a rough time getting many victories there. Denver holds an all-time 30-22 advantage in their history and a commanding 23-10 edge at home. Although the Patriots took last year’s meeting 16-3 in Denver.
Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.
First up is the Patriots offense:
Patriots RBs vs Broncos Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Denver
The Patriots running game has been emerging the past few weeks as they have been tinkering with different looks and formations. Dion Lewis has been the workhorse and figures to see the bulk of the carries again on Sunday. But they will use Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead liberally as well as they try to remain balanced.
The Broncos were allowing only about 72 yards per game on the ground after being gashed last season. However last week against Philadelphia, they were run on to the tune of 197 yards and three touchdowns. Don’t expect a repeat performance of that in Denver. Domata Peko has been an excellent acquisition for them in the running game.
Look for the Patriots to mix things up this week to try to keep the pass rush off balance. Lewis and Burkhead will probably the key runners to watch this week with Gillislee in for any short-yardage/goal line situations. It won’t be a big statistical day for the backs but if they can run enough to keep them honest it will be enough.
Patriots WRs vs Broncos Secondary – Razor’s Edge Denver
The Patriots passing game is averaging 300 yards per game, 2nd best in the league this season, despite Tom Brady being under a lot of pressure every week. Now they’re facing one of the better pass rushing teams in the league with Von Miller and the Denver secondary, the “No-Fly-Zone” which will be a big test for the passing game.
With no Julian Edelman and no Chris Hogan, Tom Brady will have Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola and Phillip Dorsett on the outside. The running backs, James White, Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis will have to pick up some slack in the passing game this week. Denver has allowed just 192 yards per game via the air.
The key this week for New England is the tight ends. Rob Gronkowski will be the target that Brady will try to match up with. Denver’s defense, if it has a weakness is defending the tight ends. Of course, they know the Patriots are short-handed at WR and will try to matchup accordingly. This week we may see more of the rookie tight end, Jacob Hollister, attacking the seams in two tight end sets. The outside linebackers are very good pass rushers but aren’t as comfortable in coverage. Marcus Cannon may not play which means LaAdrian Waddle will be going against Von Miller. Another matchup to watch.
Next up the Broncos offense:
Broncos RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Broncos running game has been up and down this season. When they won three of their first four, the new-found commitment to running the ball was paying dividends. But during their four-game losing streak, the running game has faltered and put too much pressure on their quarterbacks, who aren’t getting it done. The Broncos have a trio of good backs in C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles, and Devontae Booker.
The Patriots have not been good against the run despite seeming to turn the corner in recent games. Against the Chargers, other than one play they set the edge and stuffed the inside very well. But that one play was one where everything broke down and resulted in an 87-yard touchdown run. Such has been the defense for much of this year.
This is the key to the game here. If Denver can’t run effectively enough to make play action passing a factor, and has to put the ball in Brock Osweiler’s hands, then it is a losing proposition for them. Alan Branch and Ricky Jean Francois, filling in for the injured Malcom Brown will have to step up. And setting the edge is extremely important this week.
Broncos WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England
Denver’s passing game has been mired in mediocrity because of quarterback play. They still have Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas at wide receiver, former Patriot A.J. Derby at tight end as well as Charles, Booker and Anderson out of the backfield. Broncos QBs have been sacked 28 times and intercepted 12 times.
The Patriots pass defense was historically bad thru the first six games of the season. But they’ve begun to turn things around and the past two games against Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers the secondary has been much improved. The team should get Stephon Gilmore back this week, helping the depth and hopefully Eric Rowe soon.
The key this week from a New England perspective is putting the ball in Osweiler’s hands. If he’s forced to throw in third and long all game long, that is a winning formula for New England. Denver’s pass protection has been shoddy, but the Patriots pass rush hasn’t exactly been superb this season. We’ll see if Matt Patricia dials up some different looks in an attempt to generate some turnovers.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski has had a very solid season. His kickoffs have been spot on to pin opponents deep. The coverage units have been outstanding and getting better. The return game has been getting a boost by Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis in recent games. Ryan Allen’s average hasn’t been great, but he’s consistently putting punts inside the 20-yard line.
The Broncos Special Teams has been pretty awful. Brandon McManus has missed five field goals out of his first 15 attempts before going 3-3 last week. Their coverage units haven’t been great and this is another area that the Patriots could exploit this week.
Next up, who wins and why…
This one should be a typical New England game in Denver where they always seem to struggle offensively to put points on the board. In the past five years, the Patriots average scoring 36 points in three home games against Denver and just 18.5 points a game in four away games.
Turnovers are going to be key here, the Patriots have to win the turnover battle. Back in 2015 they were controlling the game when a muffed punt opened the door for Denver to roar back and win the game in overtime. The Broncos offense has struggled to score in their four-game losing streak. Don’t give them any short fields for easy points.
Look for Brady to target his running backs a lot in this one to try to neutralize the Denver pass rush. James White and Rex Burkhead could figure prominently in this one. Look for Osweiler to make a mistake or two, as he’s been prone to do. This one won’t win any style points this week and could easily go the other way, but the Pats are on to Mexico with a 7-2 record. Patriots 20-13
Posted Under: 2017 Patriots Season
Tags: 2017 Patriots Season Aqib Talib Bill Belichick Chris Harris Demaryius Thomas Denver Broncos Dion Lewis Domata Peko Dont'a Hightower Emmanuel Sanders Jacob Hollister James White Julian Edelman Malcolm Butler Martellus Bennett New England Patriots NFL Patriots Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady Trey Flowers Von Miller