After blowing out the Bills last week, the Patriots hope to ride their momentum as they take on the new-look Broncos. After getting stomped in the divisional round of the playoffs last year by the Patriots, John Elway decided there needed to be a change in Denver. Even though Tim Tebow picked up his horrible 1-4 football team and won a series of amazing comeback victories, Elway threw him away like a piece of trash. It is obvious that a guy like Elway wanted nothing to do with a hybrid quarterback who doesn’t put up flashy numbers. Luckily for Elway, his solution was a great one. Elway went out and got the quarterback that best resembles himself in Peyton Manning. Peyton, as we all know, has played 14 years in Indianapolis, winning 1 Super Bowl, and collecting his fair share of wins against the Patriots. However, severe neck problems knocked him out last season and have clearly worsened his ability to throw the football. I don’t care what the experts say, this is not the same Peyton Manning the world is used to watching. The Patriots’ defense will have to take advantage of this and as always, follow my weekly keys to victory!
Keys on Offense:
1. Ride the Wave: Whatever happened at halftime last Sunday may well have saved the Patriots’ season. Down 14-7 to a clearly inferior Buffalo team, the Patriots blew open the game scoring 45 points in just the 2nd half! The running game was relentless, amassing 247 yards and 3 touchdowns between Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden. This made life easy for Tom Brady who repeatedly fooled the Bills’ secondary for 340 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tom had more touchdowns last week than the first three weeks combined! The offense must ride this momentum at home to find success.
2. Run Ridley, Run! The combination of Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden set the tone in the second half of the Bills game. Bolden averaged 8.6 yards a carry and Ridley 4.8. Those are extremely good stats to put up against a decent Buffalo front seven. The Patriots’ running attack destroyed the Buffalo defense. Their entire defense was exhausted before the 3rd quarter was even over. Ridley and Bolden don’t just run well, they run hard. They constantly finish runs and fall forward for the extra yard or two. This wears out defenses who are already worried about trying to stop Tom Brady! There is no bigger fan of the running game than Tom Brady, who will gladly hand the ball of 3 times and then gash the defense with play action. This will be the key to the Patriots’ offense throughout the season. Can the rushing attack stay effective, and will Coach Belichick stick with it?
3, Come out swinging! The Patriots’ offense stalled at the beginning of last week which was a bad sign for a team that is notorious for it. At one point the Patriots were down 21-7 to the Bills before roaring back, but a good football team wouldn’t let that happen. A good football team like… the Broncos! The Patriots have to execute early in football games or risk putting themselves in a position where they have to outscore the opposing team by 20 points in the second half. It is a bad habit to get into and could lose them games down the road. Not to mention, it’s always easier on your defense when you’re not down 20 points at half time.
Keys on Defense:
1. Decisive, yet Deceptive: The Atlanta Falcons made Peyton look like a rookie in their Week 3 match-up, intercepting him 3 times in the first quarter. They achieved this by waiting until the end of the play clock to shift into their desired defensive formation. This forced Peyton to get a bad read on the defense and force the ball into coverage. By the time Peyton figured it out, they lost the football game. There is no doubting that Peyton’s intelligence has not declined like his body has. He is still going to audible into the perfect play and dissect your defense before the snap, but if the defense can stall lining up and showing their intentions, they will make things much more difficult for Manning.
2. Bring the Heat! Last week the Patriots’ defense shocked the Bills by hitting Ryan Fitzpatrick several times, and sacking him 3 times. He had only been sacked once the first 3 weeks. The pressure put on by the Patriots also forced Fitz to throw 4 interceptions! While Peyton will most likely not throw 4 interceptions, getting pressure on him will throw off his timing. Also, while the Patriots might not have the most technique-oriented secondary, McCourty and crew can ball hawk with the best of them. Peyton has been sacked 8 times this year, and I expect that number to go up after today’s game.
3. The Past stays in the Past: We all know what Peyton Manning used to be in this league. While defenses should still worry about scheming against him, Peyton is not the quarterback he used to be. His spirals aren’t tight, his deep balls aren’t on target, and he is has even less mobility than he used to have. I may even have the audacity to say he is not even the best Manning in the NFL right now! If the Patriots’ defense, particularly the secondary, goes into this game fearing Peyton Manning, then they will surely lose. However, if they go in respecting what Peyton can do, but keeping in perspective the fact that he is but a shell of who he used to be, they will put themselves in position to exploit him.
Contrary to what all the analysts think, this will not be another amazing shootout between Brady and Manning. The Patriots will run the football and the Broncos will run the football. Except, the Patriot’s will run it better and Tom Brady will find the big plays early to bury the Broncos. The defense will take advantage of having the lead and knowing that Peyton wants to pass and make big plays. This game isn’t going to be close.
Patriots 38, Broncos 17