The (8-5) Denver Broncos will host the (10-3) New England Patriots this Sunday. After beginning the year 1-4, the Broncos have won six-straight to improve to an 8-5 record and sit in first place in the AFC West. The Patriots have a hold on the AFC East with a 2-game lead on the New York Jets. Denver is looking to win its seventh consecutive game for the first time since the 1998 season and New England has a notion to extend their own five-game winning streak when they face off with the Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Kickoff for this week's game is scheduled for Sunday December 18th at 2:15 pm MST. It will be broadcast by CBS. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Phil Simms providing his biased color commentary.
Officiating the game will be Mike Carey and his crew.
The Patriots lost 11 players to injured reserve this season. Eight of them from the Defense. Linemen Mike Wright, Myron Pryor and Rookie Christian Cox----DBs Bret Lockett, Rookie Ras-I Dowling and former Bronco Josh Barrett---Linebackers Jermaine Cunningham and Rookie Jeff Tarpinian. Offensive Linemen Rookie Kyle Hix, Rich Ohrnberger and starting Center Dan Koppen.
This chart represents the Rankings for the Patriots Offense as compared to the Broncos Defense. I have also included last week's rankings for the Broncos so you can see progress or regress. The DVOA stat is taken from Football Outsiders and is explained here.
|55||8th||QB Hits Allowed||N/A||N/A||N/A|
The Patriots Running game is lead by the hot hand. At the moment, the job belongs to BenJarvus Green-Ellis (161 Car, 618 yds, 3.8 avg, 8 TDs and 6 Rec, 74 yds). Danny Woodhead (65 Car, 286 yds, 4.4 avg and 15 Rec, 135 yds, 9.0 avg.), Rookie Stevan Ridley (48 Car, 231 yds, 4.8 avg, 1 TD), Kevin Faulk (16 Car, 56 yds, 3.5 avg. and 7 Rec, 34 yds) and Rookie Shane Vereen (15 Car, 57 yds, 3.8 avg. and 1 TD) fill out the rest of this serviceable but average unit.
New England's receiving corp is mainly a 3-headed monster. Wideout Wes Welker (100 Rec, 1,339 yds, 13.4 avg, 9 TDs) is the favorite target of Tom Brady. We'll get to the other two in a minute. Deion Branch (48 Rec, 665 yds, 13.9 avg, 4TDs) plays opposite Welker, but he is nursing a sore groin. Things drop off from there. Chad Ochocinco (13 Rec, 228 yds, 17.5 avg.) hasn't done much since coming to New England. Julian Edelman (3 Car, 2 yds and 3 Rec, 27 yds) and Tiquan Underwood (2 Rec, 17 yds) are the next available options. Matthew Slater (1 Rec, 46 yds), has been filling in at Safety with the injuries to the secondary.
The other two heads of the monster are Tight Ends Rob Gronkowski (71 Rec, 1,088 yds, 15.3 avg, 15 TDs and 1 Car, 2 yds, 1 TD) is a beast and Aaron Hernandez (59 Rec, 607 yds, 10.3 avg, 5 TDs) makes Brady's life easier as a 3rd big target. The Patriots run a lot of 2 Tight End sets and between these big guys and the speedy Welker, the fact that they are weak at Running Back doesn't slow them one bit because they have the 2nd ranked passing unit and are the 3rd best scoring Offense in the league.
The Patriots Offensive Line does a pretty good job keeping Tom Brady upright and when that fails, the referees usually step in. The starters against the Washington Redskins last week were LT Matt Light (1 False Start, 4 Hold, 2 Sacks Allowed), LG Logan Mankins (5 FS, 2 HLD, 4.5 SA) , C Nick McDonald (2 G, 0.5 SA), RG Brian Waters (1 FS, 2 HLD, 0.5 SA) and Rookie RT Nate Solder (4 Pen, 3 HLD, 2 SA) played in place of Sebastian Vollmer (1 FS. 3.5 SA). Ryan Wendell (1 G), Dan Connolly (1 HLD, 0.5 SA), Donald Thomas (1 FS), Rookie Marcus Cannon (4 G) and Danny Aiken C (13 G) make up the rest of the unit.
This chart represents the Rankings for the Patriots Defense as compared to the Broncos Offense.
|29||T-17th||Sacks||14th Most||32||16th Most|
|18||T-2nd||Interceptions||T-5th Least||9||T-5th Least|
|N/A||N/A||QB Hits Allowed||6th||53||25th Most|
The Patriots use a 4-3 Base look on Defense. The starting Defensive Linemen are LDE Brandon Deaderick (14 TKL, 1 SK), DT Vince Wilfork (43 TKL, 2.5 SK, 3 PD, 2 INT, 1 FF), DT Kyle Love (28 TKL, 2 SK) and RDE Andre Carter (52 TKL, 10 SK, 1 PD, 2 FF). Mark Anderson (19 TKL, 7 SK, 1 PD, 1 FF), LDE Shaun Ellis (10 TKL), Gerard Warren (9 TKL) and Ron Brace (3 TKL) are the reserves. Eric Moore was signed last week.
The starting Linebackers are OLB Rob Ninkovich (61 TKL, 4.5 SK, 4 PD, 2 INT, 1 TD), ILB Jerod Mayo (68 TKL, 1 FF, 3 PD, 2 INT) and OLB Gary Guyton (47 TKL, 1 PD,1 INT) who has started the last 5 games in place of Brandon Spikes (44 TKL, 1 PD). Tracy White (35 TKL, 1 PD), Dane Fletcher (18 TKL) and former Bronco Niko Koutouvides (12 TKL) make up the second unit.
The starting Cornerbacks are LCB Devin McCourty (71 TKL, 6 PD) and RCB Kyle Arrington (72 TKL, 12 PD, 7 INT). Antwaun Molden (28 TKL, 2 PD,1 INT) and former Bronco Nate Jones (10 TKL) are the other options.
This chart represents the Rankings for both teams Special Teams Units.
The Kicker for the Patriots is Stephen Gostkowski, who is 22 for 26 (84.6%) in Field Goal Attempts in 2011. His longest this season was a 50-yarder and his career long is 53. Gostlowski has made all 46 Extra Point conversions. The average landing area on his Kickoffs is the 5 yard line. Stephen has 28 touchbacks in 81 Kickoffs (34.5%) and 50 have been returned an average of 21.7 yards.
The Punter and Holder for Place Kicks is Zoltan Mesko. Zoltan has punted 45 times for a gross average of 46.1 yards and a 40.6 Net. His longest for the year traveled 61 yards. Mesko has put 16 punts Inside the 20 yard line, 14 have been Fair Caught and 3 went for touchbacks. 21 of his punts have been returned for an 8.9 yard average.
The Long Snapper for New England is Rookie Danny Aiken (4 TKL). Aiken was claimed off the waiver wire and awarded to the Patriots after Buffalo cut him on Sept. 4th, 2011.
- Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is 3-6 against the Broncos with New England and 3-10 overall.
- Broncos head coach John Fox is 1-2 against New England.
- The Broncos are the only team the Patriots have lost to twice in the playoffs (1986 and 2005). New England's 13 other playoff losses have been to 13 different clubs.
- In Belichick's only two wins at Denver (10/1/00 and 11/3/03) he took intentional safeties in the second half to help secure the win.
- Kicker Stephen Gostkowski's longest field goal was a 53-yarder at Denver on Oct. 11, 2009.
- Tom Brady is 1-5 against the Broncos in the regular season and 0-1 against Denver in the postseason following a 2005 AFC Divisional playoff loss in Denver.
- Denver is the only team that Brady has a losing record against.