The Patriots return home to Foxboro and will finally…it seems, get their scheduled game with Denver in the books. Are you sick of talk of COVID-19 filling our football timelines? We are too. So, hopefully, we’ll see this game on Sunday, barring any last-minute delays.
This will be the Patriots’ third straight game against AFC West opponents. And should see the starting QBs for each team return this week.
This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Kevin Harlan will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Melanie Collins 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 (2-2) lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 26-10, where uncharacteristic mistakes, missed opportunities and a couple of bad calls went against them.
The Broncos (1-3) beat the New York Jets 37-28, where Brett Rypien played very well for three quarters but made some bad decisions down the stretch, but it was enough to win their first game of the season.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2020 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 more than any other team not in the Patriots division
Overall the Broncos lead the series 30-23, including a 4-1 advantage in the playoffs. However, the Patriots have won the last two meetings, both in Denver, where the last four meetings have taken place.
So, without further ado, 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 New England
The Patriots running game is #2 in the league and has been very varied, spreading the ball around to all of their runningbacks supported by some very good play by New England’s offensive line. The good news is that they should have Cam Newton back this week. That gives the defense an added dimension to account for and helps the running game get untracked.
Denver’s rush defense has done a good job defending and it begins with Mike Purcell in the middle, who was briefly a member of the Patriots practice squad in 2017. Denver runs a base 3-4 with ends DeShawn Williams and Shelby Harris solid against the run as are inside linebackers in Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson.
We’re looking to see more Damien Harris in this one, after a very solid first outing in KC. Without Newton at QB, nor David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Jermaine Eluemunor on the offensive line, the Patriots rolled up 185 yards on the ground against the Chiefs. We think they’ll be effective again.
Patriots WRs vs Broncos Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots passing game should have Newton back and that is the difference here. Last week, this edge would go to Denver, but Newton tips the scales back in New England’s favor. There are still a lot of things that the Patriots need to improve upon in the passing game (getting Harry more involved downfield, ditto for the tight ends etc.) but having Newton in the lineup ensures that the linebackers have to stay home.
Denver’s pass defense is 27th in the league allowing 256 yards per game with 7 TD passes against just one INT thus far. A.J. Bouye is on IR, but Bryce Callahan, who had a wrist injury should be good to go in this one.
Look for the screen game to be a big part of things for the Patriots this week, the Broncos have been using a lot of interior blitzes and the running backs should help in that department. Look for Newton to get Julian Edelman back on track this week.
Next up the Denver offense:
Broncos RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Denver
The Patriots are beat up inside, with Lawrence Guy the stalwart. Deatrich Wise and Adam Butler were on the injury report. Byron Cowart tested positive for COVID-19 and is unavailable. They signed Carl Davis from the Jaguars practice squad.
The Broncos have a very good two-headed rushing attack with Melvin Gordon who had a 107-yard game against the Jets and Phillip Lindsay, who should be back from a turf toe injury he suffered in Week 1.
It isn’t known if Lindsay will be 100 percent but having him back is a bonus. Gordon’s status for this one may be in doubt as he was arrested on Tuesday for DUI and speeding with police pulling him over for driving 71 in a 35 mph speed zone. But with the Patriots playing short-handed upfront, the advantage here has to go to Denver.
Broncos WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots have plenty of depth in their secondary, but even so, they should get Stephon Gilmore back, who, prior to contracting COVID-19, had his best game of the year against the Chiefs.
Drew Lock is back at practice for Denver, and although Vic Fangio is not giving anything away in terms of if he’ll play, I’d expect him back in the lineup after having a shoulder injury. With Courtland Sutton on IR and K.J. Hamler and Noah Fant, not 100 percent, Lock or Rypien will look to exciting rookie Jerry Jeudy to be their downfield target with Tim Patrick, Royce Freeman, Lindsay, and Gordon out of the backfield.
Even with Lock back, the Bronco’s limited number of weapons right now should be handled by the Patriots secondary.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Denver
New England got some good news as Nick Folk, showed some nice bounceback in KC Jake Bailey has been excellent thus far, while the coverage units made a nice rebound last week. However, the return game is still mired in neutral. Now that Gunner Olszewski has returned, the Patriots would love to see him get going.
Denver has the very good and reliable Brandon McManus at kicker, he is pretty much automatic at everything from 55 yards and in. Sam Martin averages nearly 46 yards per punt but has had one blocked. Diontae Spencer has a 41-yard punt return. Both teams have solid coverage.
Next up, who wins and why…
This is a game that the Patriots should win at home and after a time of uncertainty and being locked out because of the pandemic, look for them to be motivated and ready to go. Traditionally under Bill Belichick, the team plays very well in October.
Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:
Win The Turnover Battle – The Broncos enter this game -6 in turnovers, and because of some dropped picks (and a bad call), the Patriots are only +1 right now. But with the limited weapons at Lock’s disposal due to injuries, the opportunities will be there to force some turnovers. The defense has to do that and finish the process this time around. And if they get ahead early, it will force Denver into relying more on their passing game which should snowball their chances of forcing some turnovers.
Continue to Pound the Ball – While that sounds simplistic again, it is what drives the train. The Patriots ground game, with Harris, Burkhead, White, and Newton can run the ball on just about anyone, and although that is the Broncos strength, by staying patient with the running game and mixing up their packages and looks, it will open up play action, something Brian Hoyer isn’t the best at but that Newton excels.
Return to Good Situational Football Key Again – The Patriots pride themselves on playing sound situational football. They failed to do that in KC and it cost them the game. Look for them to return to that this week. With now plenty of time to prepare for the Broncos, look for Belichick and the Patriots to have a good game plan to take on Fangio’s Broncos.
This will be interesting as the teams had an unexpected bye week due to the pandemic and the teams could show signs of rust but I doubt that. It should be a hard-fought defensive game. But the Patriots defense is showing signs of coming together and playing sound football. A lot will depend up front, if they can slow down the rushing attack and force Denver into obvious passing situations, the pass rush will have to find a way to influence the game.
I think it will be a tough game, but the defense steps up and the offense does enough to push the home team to a victory. Patriots 24-13
Posted Under: 2020 NFL Season
Tags: Bill Belichick Cam Newton Damien Harris Denver Broncos Devin McCourty Drew Lock James White Jerry Jeudy Julian Edelman Melvin Gordon N'Keal Harry New England Patriots NFL Noah Fant Patriots edge rushers Phillip Lindsay Rex Burkhead Stephon Gilmore