Patriots vs. Broncos: 5 Matchups To Watch


Here are five matchups to watch tomorrow night:

Chris Harper vs. Chris Harris

Yeah, things are bad for the Patriots receiving corps right now. Danny Amendola hasn’t officially been ruled out yet, but I don’t think he is going to, or should play. There is no point in risking an injury that will sideline him for the playoffs in a regular season game. He is too important to this offense. So if Amendola is in fact out, that will thrust Harper into action, and he will probably see a lot of Chris Harris, who is a great slot corner. Hopefully Harper can win a few battles.

Malcolm Butler/Logan Ryan vs. Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders

Thomas and Sanders are the only viable weapons the Broncos have, so these matchups will go a long way towards deciding the outcome of this game. I think the best way to match up with these two is to stick Butler on Sanders 1-on-1 (with some help obviously), and essentially double Thomas with Ryan and either Devin McCourty, or Duron Harmon. Butler has been excellent against the small, quicker receivers like Sanders, but has struggled against bigger guys. As long as you always have a safety over the top of Ryan with Thomas, the Pats should be okay.

LeGarrette Blount vs. Front 7

This is more about the Patriots’ offensive line and tight ends vs. Denver’s front seven than Blount himself, but whaetever. If Danny Amendola is in fact out, and even if he plays, I think the Pats are going to use a lot of heavy sets, and try to run the football. With a depleted receiving corps, this option is not only the better way to move the ball at this point, but it also gives Tom Brady more built in protection against Von Miller, and it should open up some space in the seams for Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler. The Broncos’ linebackers and safeties really struggle in coverage so keep an eye on them when they are forced to cover Gronk, Chandler, or James White.

Ryan Harris vs. Chandler Jones

Jones is second in the NFL in sacks this year with 10.5, and I think he will have a few opportunities to add to that total tomorrow. Injuries have hit the Broncos hard along the offensive line this year, so veteran Ryan Harris has been forced into action on the left side. Jones is a much better talent than Harris, and because Bill Belichick doesn’t usually blitz young quarterbacks (he prefers to drop into coverage and force them to make throws), it will be up to the front four to pressure Osweiler. Jones and the front four will also have to contend with Gary Kubiak’s zone running scheme, so it will be important for them to try and stay on their feet when the offensive line is cutting them to get them on the ground. You stay up against the zone run, you shut it down.

Weather vs. Both Teams

It is going to be cold and snowy in this game, which always favors the Patriots. Tom Brady is probably the best of all time at playing in inclement weather conditions, while Brock Osweiler played at Arizona State. The cold and snow might force Osweiler to make a few unforced errors, and the Pats will obviously take advantage. That could be a key X-factor in a close defensive battle. .