In the final road test for the New England Patriots, they go west to the Mile High City to take on the 8-5 Denver Broncos. New England comes in at 10-3 and a win away from clinching the AFC East. However, it did not come easy last week as the Patriots had to survive a tough test in Washington thanks in part to a late Rex Grossman interception. Nevertheless, a win is a win, and this will be a tough test for a franchise that has had its problem up in the Mile High State over the last decade.
As for this Denver Broncos’ team, they were a team that started the year 1-4 under Kyle Orton. Then, Tim Tebow took the reins and this team has clicked to six straight wins. However, it has not just been Tebow’s fourth quarter abilities. The defense has improved, let my rookie linebacker Von Miller and his double digit sacks and the ground game with Willis McGahee has been big for John Fox’s ball control offense. They went from a team looking to draft a high quarterback to a team that is thinking about the playoffs and beyond with the AFC West lead.
Here are my keys to this AFC thriller in Denver this week:
Who will cover Gronk?: That’s been the question that most defensive coordinators have asked all season. For the Broncos, they may have a huge dilemma in that regard. They are injured in the secondary with safety Brian Dawkins and cornerback Andre Goodwin limited in practice the last couple of days. I talked with John Bena of MileHighReport.com this week and he told me to look for linebacker Wesley Woodyard to cover the man with the most touchdowns by a tight end in a single season. Woodyard has 27 tackles in his last five games. He can also force turnovers since he has three forced fumbles in those five games. He is unknown, but its those unknown guys that can make a difference.
Step Away from the Von: The most impactful player on the Denver defense is Von Miller. Miller was taken with the 2nd pick in this year’s draft and has not disappointed all season. He has 11.5 sacks this year, which leads the team. The Patriots need to make sure Matt Light has an eye on him at all times. Miller and Elvis Dumervil have been one of the top 1-2 young defensive ends in the league. We all know if the Patriots’ offense is going to get off to that hot start they need to avoid Tebow’s 4th quarter heroics, they have to start with a good rhythm.
Tebow’s 4th quarter weapon: Tim Tebow is a tale of two halves as we know, but Tebow needs someone to throw the ball too to have his 4th quarters be a success. The receiver I am watching out on is Demaryius Thomas. Thomas has 18 catches this year, but 11 of them have come in the 4th quarter. He made some big catches in their win over the Bears in overtime on Sunday. With New England’s secondary probably without Patrick Chung again, I look for Denver to spread it out and complete passes like Dan Orlovsky and Rex Grossman did.
PREDICTION: I will start my prediction by saying that I am a Tim Tebow supporter and think he can be a successful NFL quarterback. The dude just has a will to win and it is tough to deny that. As far as Sunday goes, the Patriots need to get off to a hot start to win this game. However, New England has not had great 1st quarters in the last few games. This game will be close and I think will come down to who has the ball last. People say Tebow can’t spread the ball out against this defense. Take a look at a game I found from last year that shows why I think Tebow can have 250+ passing yards Sunday.
Last year, Tim Tebow played the league’s worst pass defense as well (Houston Texans). Here is his line from that game:
16/29 – 308 yards – 1 touchdown, 1 interception
I see the Broncos fighting back in the 4th quarter, but Brady has the ball last and drives New England in position for a game winning Stephen Gostkowski field goal
PATRIOTS 27 BRONCOS 24