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Gator20134
01-12-2012, 12:31 PM
1. Keep the momentum rolling: In the upset of wild card weekend, the Broncos defeated Pittsburgh in overtime. They are playing with house money and really have nothing to lose at this point. Meanwhile, the Patriots have lost their opening playoff game in each of the past two seasons despite very high expectations. The Broncos are operating on a short week for this cross-country road trip, and New England is an extremely difficult place to play. Adding to the intrigue, Josh McDaniels, the former Denver head coach, is back on Bill Belichick's staff. These teams met in Week 15, and the Patriots won 41-23 in Denver. Only the 49ers and Packers had better turnover differentials than New England's plus-17, and the Broncos were among the worst in the league at minus-12.

2. How to label New England's tight ends? The Patriots employ a ton of double-tight end sets. Although Rob Gronkowski is a prototypical two-way tight end, Aaron Hernandez is as much wide receiver as he is tight end. There is not a great way to defend this pair. Tom Brady moves them around the formation with exceptional cunning to best exploit matchups in the Patriots' favor or to open up an advantage for another Patriots skill player. Many teams have brought extra defensive backs on the field to defend New England's 12 (1 RB/2 TE) personnel, but Denver is not especially deep in the secondary. That approach would put a lesser player on the field while putting a better player on the sidelines. This is a huge dilemma for the Broncos.

3. Hit big plays: Passing yards have been very easy to come by against the Patriots. Broncos QB Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards in the wild-card round against a very good Steelers defense. He was as accurate as he's ever been and made good decisions. Tebow averaged more than 30 yards per completion against Pittsburgh. Despite all their issues stopping opposing passing attacks, the Patriots do cause a lot of turnovers and also are much better in the red zone than in the other 80 yards of the field. These defensive traits can make an opponent's yardage much greater than its final point total.

4. Control the game on the ground: The Patriots are also very generous to opposing running backs. When these teams met in Week 15, the Broncos amassed an amazing 167 yards on the ground in just the first quarter and ended the day with 252 rushing yards. But for this matchup, New England will have Brandon Spikes and Patrick Chung, very good run stoppers, back from injury. Any team facing Denver has to be prepared to stop its option attack and Tebow as a run threat. Doing so can be very mentally and physically taxing. New England must be very aware of play-action, which is also a staple of the Denver offense. Vince Wilfork remains an excellent run-stuffer, and the Broncos will have to account for him often with two big blockers when they run on the interior. When these teams met last, fumbles really hurt Denver, which is a recipe for disaster against New England. Running backs are doing little as receivers against New England, but the Broncos backs are not particularly adept in the passing game anyway.

5. Matchup to watch: Broncos QB Tim Tebow vs. Patriots pass rush: Conventional wisdom against Tebow is to rush him very conservatively to keep him in the pocket and make him throw. Pittsburgh tried that, and Tebow made the Steelers pay. Denver didn't allow a sack in the wild-card round. Belichick needs to decide whether he believes Tebow can duplicate that performance. Either way, the Pats should throw a variety of coverages and pressure concepts at the young quarterback. The Patriots' pass defense was better during the regular season when it blitzed, and the Pays really don't have one defender who can be classified as an upper-tier pure pass-rusher.

6. Dominate through the air: New England is extremely efficient in the red zone both with the run game and passing attack. Gronkowski is clearly Brady's top target when the Patriots get near the goal line. No one in the league does it better in those tight quarters than Gronkowski, who finished the regular season with a whopping 1,327 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. Wes Welker is also superb in tight spaces and, despite his smaller stature, is very effective near the goal line. Welker was one of the most targeted receivers in the NFL. How will Denver use CB Champ Bailey against this group of dangerous weapons? Bailey is still playing at a very high level but isn't an ideal matchup against Welker or Gronkowski. He probably would play Hernandez best, and Bailey has matched up exclusively against receiving tight ends like Antonio Gates in the past. Compounding matters for the Broncos, Pats WR Deion Branch appears to be healthy for this game. Given all the other options at Brady's disposal, Branch should see very favorable matchups outside the numbers.

7. Eliminate Thomas at all costs: Top wide receivers have tortured New England. Demaryius Thomas accounted for a whopping 204 receiving yards against Pittsburgh. He is a unique combination of size, power and long speed. Thomas is clearly Tebow's favorite weapon, and rightfully so. But Denver did lose Eric Decker to a knee injury in that game. Thomas is really the only threatening weapon in the Broncos' passing game. Look for Belichick to do everything possible schematically to eliminate Thomas and challenge the other pass-catchers to step up.

8. Get Miller blocked: The Broncos sacked Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger five times, and Broncos rookie LB Von Miller showed his excellent midseason form as a pass-rusher. When Miller plays well, this defense is strong. He's fantastic. Brady is outstanding against the blitz and also moves very well within a cluttered pocket. One of the only weaknesses of Brady's game is his ability outside the pocket, but forcing him into compromising positions is much easier said than done.

9. Be more physical up front: New England isn't known as a physical offense, but don't discount it. The Patriots like to employ a variety of offensive personnel groupings, including using a sixth offensive lineman. The Patriots have had plenty of injuries to their offensive tackles but should be healthier up front in this contest than in recent games.

10. Matchup to watch: Patriots running backs vs. Broncos OLB D.J. Williams: The Patriots are selective in their running game and have a vast stable of ball carriers. Their ground game can be very effective, and they are able to tailor it week to week to their opponent's weaknesses. Williams is an excellent athlete for a second-level defender and should be a decent matchup in the run or pass game against any New England running back. Denver struggled stopping the run in the wild-card round; the Steelers gained 156 rushing yards. In fact, the Broncos have been quite generous to opposing running backs overall. They also allow a lot of running back production in the passing game. The unsung hero of Denver's defensive line and run defense is Brodrick Bunkley. Getting Bunkley blocked will be paramount for the Patriots.

Prediction
adv: nwe Denver 10
New England 30

Rabb
01-12-2012, 01:02 PM
in before flames

bendog
01-12-2012, 01:30 PM
I thought 5 made a good pt, though it didn't pt out that Billicheat's blitz packages are very inventive. Back in Payaton's prime, NE always had a blitz that had never been used before, so Payaton hadn't seem film of it, and Payaton is/was the best prepared person to ever play qb or perhaps football itself.

Gator20134
01-12-2012, 02:00 PM
"Payaton" is clever.

oubronco
01-12-2012, 02:03 PM
http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSBnWg-ZXcKVdvSWeko2X0FbCQuxDuZfAhHg6g2gMeHalTSonZpkkkECZ nOHg

SonOfLe-loLang
01-12-2012, 02:34 PM
I cant remember if Matt Williamson wrote this up, but he looks like the kind of guy who sweats while he takes poops