The New England Patriots will take on the Denver Broncos in Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. The game is scheduled for kickoff at 8:30 PM. ET.
The yearly Brady Vs Manning rivalry game is a primetime affair. Before Manning’s injury, this game looked like the last chapter of their historic rivalry. Unfortunately, with Manning sidelined by injury, Brock Osweiler will start at quarterback for a second straight week.
The Patriots and the Broncos are meeting each other at a time when both teams are experiencing adversity. The Broncos, without Manning, played well against Chicago. Against the Bears, Osweiler played well. He threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly, he did not turn the ball over. Facing a New England defense that thrives on turnovers, it’s crucial that Osweiler continues to limit mistakes.
In week 11, the Denver defense limited the Bears to only 15 points. The Broncos’ secondary had Aqib Talib back from suspension and his presence helped solidify the back of the defense. New England relies on the pass to set up the run. If the Broncos secondary can play pressman coverage on the Patriots’ receivers and force Brady to make tough throws into narrow windows, then the Broncos will keep this a low scoring game.
The Patriots might have a tie for the best record in the league, but they’re no longer winning pretty. That’s not always a big deal. Teams need to win all types of game throughout the year. But, the Patriots’ struggles in recent weeks are a direct result of one group being overwhelmed by injuries. Going into last week, the Patriots had lost two of their top three pass catchers. In their absence, Danny Amendola and to a lesser extent Aaron Dobson would need to play larger roles in the offense. Amendola is now questionable with an injury and Dobson is out for the rest of the season after being placed on injured reserve. The Patriots cannot afford to lose anymore receivers going forward.
A key player to watch for the Broncos this week is Ronnie Hillman. The Patriots have one of the better run defenses in the league. Brock Osweiler will need the support of a ground game, and Hillman had emerged as the guy in Denver. Last week, Hillman rushed for 102 on 21 carries. That was against the worst run defense in the league. The Patriots are going to try and take away the run to force Osweiler into beating them with his arm. Hillman needs to have a productive day.
A key player to watch for the Patriots this week is Rob Gronkowski. Last week, Gronk was very un-Gronk-like. He put up a pedestrian 37 yards on two receptions. Gronk was virtually a non-factor in the game, despite seven targets. With the loss of many key receivers, the pressure on Gronk to become the focal point is mounting. Against the Bills, Gronk had several balls slip right through his fingers. Part of that is game planning. The Patriots never really utilized Gronk as anything more than a quick option. The bigger issue is pressure on Brady. Against the Bills, Brady struggled to read the defense. He was under heavy pressure all night. The pressure on Brady made finding Gronk difficult. It might have just been a bad day for Gronk, but it’s not going to get any easier against the Broncos. If any team has the personnel to cover Gronk, it’s Denver.
Broncos Vs Patriots Betting Lines
Even without Manning this is a difficult game for the Patriots. Throughout his career Brady has struggled in Denver. For whatever reason, it’s a place where wins are hard to come by. The difference maker is the Patriots timely defense. The Patriots are going to force Osweiler to become one-dimensional by taking away the run. Look for Gronk to bounce back this week and carry the Patriots offense to a victory.
Play: Patriots -2.5