Wasn’t pretty Monday night against Buffalo, but a win is a win. Next up on the F U Tour schedule: Brock Osweiler and the 8-2 Denver Broncos. While this game may not be as nationally attractive as it was a few weeks back (2 undefeated teams, Brady vs. Manning, etc.), it remains a critical showdown for arguably the two best teams in the AFC. In order to keep the undefeated season alive, and all but lock up home field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Pats need to limp out of Mile High Stadium against the #1 defense in football with a win on Sunday night. Will they? Let’s take it around the table and see what the BBS staff thinks...
Tom Brady: Over/Under 300 passing yards?
Niko: For the first time this season, I have to go UNDER here, for a number of reasons. Denver’s secondary and pass rush are arguably the best in the game, the Pats’ receiving corps is depleted, and the offensive line is struggling badly. Unfortunately, moving forward I don’t expect to see many ho hum 350 yard 3 TD performances we grew accustomed to at the beginning of the year.
Pete: This is tough. The Patriots don't have much of a running game, but with a depleted receiving core, Tom Brady has struggled to sustain long drives and rack up those passing yards. HOWEVER, with Demarcus Ware out, and the sheer fact that the Pats will need need to somehow move the ball, I will go OVER.
LeGarrette Blount: Over/Under 62 rushing yards?
Niko: I’m going to go OVER here, but this could backfire on me. I do think the Pats will make an effort to establish the run, but I’m not sure we’ll see positive results. Denver’s pass rushers (Von Miller especially) needs to be kept on their toes, and if Brady is back there throwing 45, 50 times they could tee-off on him pretty badly. There needs to be some sort of balance to set up the play-action.
Pete: The main reason I picked Tom Brady to go over 300 yards is because of this guy. Blount just isn't the guy that the Patriots need back there. I like him late in games, when no one wants to tackle a guy that weighs as much as a lineman, but he just doesn’t have that explosive first step that is needed in the NFL. I will go UNDER, as I think the Pats could use some two running back sets with Bolden and White, who should be utilized more in this game.
James White: Over/Under 50 yards from scrimmage?
Niko: James White has arrived. I’ve been begging to see this kid involved since Lewis went down, and White made the most of his touches on Monday. Word to McDaniels: go to White early and often on Sunday and for the rest of the season. OVER, mostly through the air.
Pete: This kid didn't get a lot of touches on Monday, but when he did manage to get the football he succeeded. After a two touchdown performance, I hope to see White utilized more in the passing and running scheme. OVER.
Rob Gronkowski: Over/Under 4.5 catches, 75 yards receiving?
Niko: After being held to 2 catches, 37 yards on Monday night, it’s getting obvious that without Edelman and Lewis in the picture teams are focusing on taking away Gronk. McDaniels needs to find creative ways to get him involved on Sunday. I think he does. We’ll need it. OVER on both.
Pete: Gronk’s numbers look good, as he is on pace for over 80 catches and 1,000 yards, but he hasn't been involved in the passing game as much since the injuries to the offensive line. The Bills hit Gronk on the line of scrimmage and seemed to annoy him. That may be the new blueprint on how to limit Gronk, but I have to go OVER here.
Brandon Lafell: Over/Under 4.5 catches, 59 yards receiving?
Niko: UNDER again on both. Talib will likely keep Lafell at bay, Brady will have to look elsewhere (combination of Martin, White, Chandler) for production.
Pete: If I had to guess, I would agree with Niko. Talib is going to be on Lafell, which could provide for an interesting matchup. However, Talib is simply the better player. Lafell may get a big catch or two, but he should be limited. UNDER.
Brock Osweiler: Over/Under 235 passing yards?
Niko: I think the Pats pass rush gets to Osweiler all night long. I’m going UNDER the 235, plus a few turnovers for Brock in his 2nd career start.
Pete: Osweiler was very confused at the Bears’ defensive schemes last week, so I can only imagine what Bill Belichick will be able to muster up. UNDER.
Ronnie Hillman/CJ Anderson: Over/Under combined 110 rushing yards?
Niko: UNDER. The Patriots run defense is legit. After holding the strong Bills’ rushing attack to 99 yards, I have confidence the Patriots will completely neutralize the Broncos inconsistent ground game.
Pete: Hillman and Anderson are good, but I would take Shady over them both any day of the week. While McCoy was stellar in the passing attack, he struggled on the ground. That trend should continue this week. UNDER.
Vernon Davis/Owen Daniels: Over/Under combined 100 receiving yards?
Niko: Davis (6 catches, 68 yards) and Daniels (4, 69) were Osweiler’s top 2 targets against the Bears. Belichick will at least take one away. Expect Chung/McCourty to rotate on the two of these. Harmon will probably get some work on them as well. UNDER, but not by much, these guys will be involved.
Pete: I said it when they got him, but Vernon Davis is not the same dude he was a couple years ago. If Jamie Collins is able to go, he should be able to help with the crossing patterns with tight ends that have seemed to hurt the Pats as of late. UNDER.
Demaryius Thomas: Over/Under 75 receiving yards?
Niko: I’m going to go OVER here. I think Logan Ryan will get the matchup, and the 6’3 230 pound Thomas will be a lot to handle. Osweiler targeted him 8 times last weekend (only connecting on 3), and assuming a similar amount of looks, Thomas will hit this mark.
Pete: Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler have completely blown away my expectations for this year. Ryan is either going to completely take him out of the game, or get burned. I expect a mixture of the two, but will go UNDER.
Manny Sanders: Over/Under 75 receiving yards?
Niko: UNDER. See Butler, Malcolm.
Pete: Malcolm, GO! Still get chills. UNDER.
Niko: Brandon Lafell vs. Aqib Talib
We all know how effective a motivated and healthy Talib is. Unfortunately, Brady must test him on Sunday night. JoJo needs to win this matchup a good chunk of the time, or there will be a few more stunted drives then we are used to.
Pete: Brock Osweiler vs. Bill Belichick.
I touched on it earlier, but Bill Belichick is going to try and confuse the hell out of Osweiler. BB knows how to disguise the defense in a way that will give an inexperienced quarterback fits. Will Brock be any different?
Niko: Scott Chandler finally realizes it’s football season. Other than the big 3 (Gronk, Lafell, DA) someone has to step up for Brady on Sunday. I think Chandler is that guy. 4 catches, 60 yards, and a touchdown.
Pete: There is going to be some guy that steps up and has a huge game. My guess is that its going to be Brandon Bolden. The dude loves to compete and the Patriots love him. If they give him some designed screens and stretch him out wide, I think he could have a big game. Plus I love his hair. Colored dreads fo’ days.
Game Total: Over/Under 44 points?
Niko: UNDER. This thing has defensive showdown written all over it. It won’t be pretty on Sunday night.
Pete: UNDER. Like Niko said, this is going to be a good defensive battle. The Pats have the #1 points against defense in the NFL. Guess who is #2?
Niko: 20-13 Pats. Defense gets it done on Sunday. F U Tour keeps rolling.
Pete: If the Patriots are able to win this game, there is no question that they are a team on a mission with destiny on their side. With all the injuries on offense, and defense for that matter, the Patriots should be losing this game. I want to pick the Patriots, but my head tells me to go with the Broncos. NOT SO FAST. Who ever called me smart? 17-16 Pats in one of the best games of the season.