What makes you feel the most confident about the Patriots in Sunday's matchup?
Raj: They're coming into this game as determined underdogs. We never think of or see the Patriots as underdogs. Well, we do now, but it's a good thing. That creates a strong fire within them that pushes them to desire the ultimate dream: hoisting the lombardi trophy in my great state of new jersey. The Patriots are on a mission and they are playing a team game. I know Denver is a talented and difficult team, but this New England team isn't ready to go down without a fight. And I am confident they won't because they've stepped up in both ends of the field when needed. Plus, I don't think Tom Brady is too keen on the idea of losing back-to-back AFC championships. So look forward to see a much more determined Brady lead his offense down the field with each possession.
Jason: I really think that Belichick has Manning's number. Peyton is known for taking what the defense gives him, and the Pats usually do a good job of getting him into third-and-medium situations and taking away the short pass on third down. Of course, no matter how well you play them, you aren't realistically going to hold that offense to single digits. But if they can keep them in the 20s, they should give themselves a chance to win.
Rick: The most confident thing about the Patriots has to be is the run game. When you play Peyton Manning, you need to play keep away. If you control time of possession, you have every chance to win because you limit the possessions of the offense. New England has the capability with LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley to wear down the defensive line. There doesn’t always have to be a 73 yard touchdown runs, but small runs can set up the play action as we saw with the deep pass to Amendola in the 3rd quarter last week. Also, New England’s cornerbacks match up well with the wide receivers on Denver, including Aqib Talib and Logan Ryan, who both made big plays back in Week 12 against the Broncos. If you are going to beat Peyton on the road, turnovers are a premium.
Derek: I think the recent run of injuries to the Broncos defense could make this game fall in the Patriots' favor. New England has proven their ability to miraculously bounce back from some devastating losses. I'm not so sure that the Broncos can do the same. The recipe to defeating the Patriots in the playoffs has been to pressure Brady and blanket his receivers. Players like Jason Pierre Paul and Darrelle Revis have ultimately been able to do that. Can Denver create that kind of defensive stand without Von Miller and Chris Harris? Considering their replacement for Harris is Marquis Cole, who was a complete seive for the Pats secondary, I have some serious doubts. Denver is going to focus hard on stopping the New England ground game after last week. However, don't be surprised to see Belichick flip the script yet again this week and start attacking through the air with the Broncos pass rush and coverage severely weakened.