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Since Tom Brady and Bill Belichick took over in New England, they have proven over and over again that they can beat anyone, anywhere…
Aside from the Denver Broncos.
Over the course of his career, Brady is 6-9 vs. Denver (5-6 in the regular season), but more importantly is a measly 2-7 on the road at Mile High Stadium. Denver truly has been a “house of horrors” for the future hall of famer, but this Sunday I truly believe that Brady and the Patriots will do enough to take down their most hated rivals.
The Broncos currently sit at 8-5 and hold the 6th seed in the AFC playoff picture. However, the Broncos have the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL (vs. Patriots, @ Chiefs, vs. Raiders) and have the Dolphins, Ravens and Titans breathing down their necks for that coveted final wildcard seed come playoff time. What scares me about that, is the Broncos have their backs up against a wall and will be fighting for their playoff lives this Sunday. Playing a desperate team is never a good thing no matter who you are.
Even with that being said, I still like the Patriots in this game for a couple reasons.
1) This is not the same Broncos team from recent years.
When I look at Denver’s defense there is no doubt they are still among the best in the league but something is different about this unit from last year. Up to this point they have the #3 ranked total defense, #1 pass defense and can still rush the quarterback. Sure, that hasn’t changed, but the problem for Denver this season is they are awful defending the run. Listen to this crazy stat: last season the Broncos had the #3 ranked rush defense in the NFL. This season they are #27. LeGarrette Blount, James White and Dion Lewis should be featured in a HUGE way this weekend. The Patriots should be able to run the ball effectively and it should set up the passing game for Brady.
2) Both Broncos starting linebackers Todd Davis (ribs) and Brandon Marshall (hamstring) have not participated in practice all week and their availability is in serious doubt in the upcoming matchup with New England.
Those guys are the key for Denver’s defense against a potent rushing attack and they do a pretty decent job covering tight ends in the passing game. If one or both of them are out this weekend, it might be too big of a loss to overcome for Denver.
Editor's Note: After the final injury report was released this Friday afternoon, it was revealed that Brandon Marshall will indeed miss Sunday's game.
3) The Patriots defense showed me something against the Ravens.
Sure, if you didn’t watch the game on Monday night you might think the Ravens were able to move the ball effectively on their way to putting up 23 points against New England. That’s not even remotely true. The defense has been highly scrutinized for a large part of the season but on the biggest stage, against a good opponent, Matt Patricia’s guys showed up. They won the line of scrimmage, everyone was playing physical and they were able to constantly apply pressure to Flacco. If they can do that this weekend I think they will be able to hold Denver in the teens in terms of points. (For those of you keeping track at home, Denver ranks 19th in passing offense and 27th in rushing offense.)
4) I think the Patriots have too many guys that pose matchup nightmares for opposing defenses.
The beautiful thing about the Patriots’ offense is that any guy can beat you any given week; it doesn’t always have to be the same person. One week it might be Bennett, one week it might be Blount, the next week it might be a combination of Hogan, Mitchell and Edelman. This isn’t a problem for just Denver; it’s a problem for all of the NFL. The Patriots just seem to have too many weapons.
5) I’ve seen a lot of stuff on twitter saying the Patriots playing on a short week is going to cost them this game. Stop with that nonsense. The Patriots have the best coach in NFL history on their sidelines. There is literally zero doubt in my mind that the Patriots won’t be ready for Sunday. Devin McCourty was asked about playing on a short week and he said, “Guys come in here ready to work and knowing we don’t have as much time to prepare for a team makes you really pay attention to detail. It makes you focus more.” Being a short week will not be a problem for the Patriots.
This Sunday is a monster game for both teams who both have a lot riding on this particular contest. For me, the Patriots matchup against the Broncos much better this year than in prior seasons, and for that reason I’m taking the Patriots 27-17 in Denver.