This Sunday the Patriots will be taking on Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos in Denver where the Patriots have not faired very well of late. Tom Brady has a 1-5 record in the regular season against the Broncos. Obviously, all week the media has focused on Tebow.
The Denver offense is very different from any offense the Patriots have faced this season. Tebow is pretty much a run first quarterback, almost like a second running back. How the Patriots defense plays Tebow will be interesting, and whether or not Brandon Spikes or Patrick Chung return from injuries could impact the Patriots defense.
With Patrick Chung missing practice on Friday it is unlikely that he will play again on Sunday, which definitely impacts the Patriots secondary. The safeties will most likely be James Ihedigbo and Matthew Slater. This means that the Patriots have to be pretty conservative with them considering Slater just started to play the position a few weeks ago.
If Chung were to return, Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia could open things up and do some different things with them such as blitz more or even have three safeties on the field at once and move one of them up to a linebacker spot and play a 4-4 defense (see Jamie Pacheco’s post from earlier this week).
Spikes practiced for much of this week and that is a good sign towards him returning this week. That is good news for the Patriots because besides Jerod Mayo, Spikes is their best linebacker at stopping the run. If Spikes returns, expect him to see the majority of the defensive snaps at middle linebacker alongside Mayo.
Based on past history of Belichick I would expect him to play a zone defense and let Tebow beat the Patriots through the air. I would not expect him to take a lot of chances with blitzing, etc. He simply does not have the talent on defense that the had during the Super Bowl years so he cannot draw up fancy schemes and use players in different areas.
Sunday’s game will be the biggest test the team has had in at least the last month and people might have a better idea of where the defense stands as it gets closer to playoff football when things really start to count.