As kickoff slowly approaches, I wanted to cap off a week of analysis regarding this game with a few final thoughts:
1. Game Will Be Decided In The Trenches
I have talked about this all week long, but I cannot stress it enough: this game will be won, or lost in the trenches. If the Patriots can’t get to Peyton Manning, and DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller beat up on Tom Brady, Denver will come out victorious. Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Dominique Easley, Akeem Ayers, and Rob Ninkovich all need to win their respective battles if the Pats want to get a win today.
2. Secondary Matchups
A lot of people assume New England will just stick Darrelle Revis on Demaryius Thomas in this one, but I don’t think that is the best plan of attack. I think the Pats would be better off locking Revis up on Emmanuel Sanders, let Brandon Browner try to beat up Thomas with safety help, and let Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, and Logan Ryan handle Wes Welker. I am just petrified of Sanders 1-on-1 with Dennard. I would feel much more comfortable seeing Revis on Sanders, and Browner beating up on the bigger Demaryius Thomas.
3. Julius Thomas Problem
How will the Patriots handle the big tight end? This is a huge issue for New England, and ideally, they would stick Jamie Collins on him, and hope he can hold his own. Collins is a very good coverage linebacker, so hopefully he can stay with Thomas, but in big situations (3rd downs), look for Bill Belichick to utilize Browner on Julius Thomas.
4. Running Game
Tom Brady (if given time) will have no problem moving the ball through the air against this defense. Whether it is Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen, Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, or even Tim Wright, he will have matchups to take advantage of. But in order to slow that ferocious pass rush down, the Patriots need to get the ground game going. Jonas Gray is a decisive, physical runner, so expect the Pats to try and get him in a rhythm early. The interior of the offensive line (Bryan Stork, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly) need to set the tone, as they are key to setting up holes in the running game.
It looks like there won’t be much precipitation today, but it will be cold, and it will be windy. This definitely helps the Patriots much more than the Broncos, as Tom Brady and company are used to playing in weather like this. Brady had one of the best games of his career back in 2009 in a snow-storm at Gillette. However Peyton Manning struggles when the temperatures drop and the wind begins to pick up, so keep an eye out for that in this one. The wind will also affect the kicking game, where the Patriots have arguably the best kicker in the league, and Denver has a rookie.