by Gus Ramsey
Let's begin by looking back. Here is what I wrote about this game before the season started.
Week 15 - home New England. Loss.
Doesn't it seem like the Patriots come to Denver every year? Denver always seems to kind of have the Patriots number, don't they? Since 1984 the Patriots and Broncos have played 21 times (including the playoffs) with 14 of those games in Denver. The Broncos are 17-4 in those games, including 12-2 in Denver. So why not the same old story? Because the Pats are really good and will be revving it up for the playoffs. I've already given Denver a win over the Jets. You can't really expect me to give them a win over New England too.
OK, now that the game is here, I'll try some actual analysis or insight.
I emailed Simmons this week and reminded him how much Terrell Davis used to terrify him. So using T.D. as a 10 on the Terrified Scale, I asked him what Tebow was. He said a 4. I thought that was kind of low given all that we have seen recently, but so be it. So I asked myself the same question in regards to the Pats. Brady is obvious, so let's move past him. Gronkowski is my #1 concern. He's a 9.5. No team has had an answer for him and I don't see one in Denver either. Yes, the Broncos linebackers are fast, rush the passer well and wrap up tackles well, but coverage doesn't seem like a strength. Some of the better tight ends they've played, like Gates and Keller, have been pretty productive. I'll be curious to see what Fox dials up to try and handle him.
I PREFER NOT TO DEFER
It's become fairly common in the league for team's that win the toss to defer to the second half and kick off to start the game. Not a good idea for Denver if they win the toss. I understand the offense has been putrid in the first half, but you have to give yourself the chance to take the opening drive down and score points. Being behind the Pats from the jump would not be a good thing. I understand Denver has had only one opening drive touchdown under Tebow this year, but I think that's the right play.
SOMETHINGS GOT TO GIVE
The Broncos lead the league in 3 and Outs. The Patriots defense is last in opponent 3rd down efficiency. The only way Denver wins this game is if they win this part of the battle.
ESPN Stats and Information put out the stat this week that, in the first three quarters of games, Tebow is blitzed 40% of the time. In the 4th quarter it drops to around 28%. That's the biggest drop-off for any QB in the league. I'm very interested to see how often the Pats bring five or more and how often they don't. Their defense is especially bad when the opponent is in three wide receiver sets, and blitzing would put their suspect secondary into one-on-one battles. This will be fascinating. One thing is for sure, if something is working for Belichick, he won't change it in the fourth quarter like other teams have.
THE BRADY CUTAWAY
Broncos fans should want to see a lot of cutaway shots of Tom Brady. That means he is standing on the sidelines, not on the field firing TD passes. Simmons told me that what scares him most is the Broncos running game, that McGahee is the type of back that gives the Pats trouble. The Broncos are going to have to give Belichick a dose of his own Super Bowl 25 Time of Possession medicine. Tom Brady on the sidelines, with Jack Frost nipping at his nose, would be a wonderful sight.
I FAILED 7TH GRADE HISTORY
History has never been my strong suit, but as I noted in my preseason post, the Patriots have not enjoyed their trips to Denver. Hopefully a touch of whatever Mile High magic there is, sprinkles itself around the field.
I want to, I really do, I just can't. (You should know that the Vikings game was the only one during this streak that I thought they would win going into it.) As well as the Broncos defense has played, I still can't see them keeping the Patriots under 24 and as bad as the Patriots defense is, I can't see the Broncos scoring more than 24. So I will slightly amend my earlier prediction and go with Patriots 27 Broncos 17.
The plan is for Simmons and I to podcast a recap on Monday. Hopefully it's a happy one.
If you missed it, here is the Tebow Sound FX from the Bears game