DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 18: Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos after the game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 18, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 41-23. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The AFC East Champion New England Patriots will host the AFC West Champion Denver Broncos in a Divisional Playoff game this Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The winner will advance to the AFC Championship. Denver advanced to the 2nd round of the postseason tournament after defeating the Steelers in Overtime last Sunday. The Patriots clinched the division with a 41-23 victory over the Denver Broncos in Week 15. They are the #1 seed in the AFC for the second consecutive year.
The current weather conditions can be seen here.
Officiating the game will be Gene Steratore and his crew.
R Gene Steratore 114
U Schuster 129
HL Mackie 106
LJ Marinucci 107
FJ Waggoner 25
SJ Weatherford 116
BJ D. Paganelli 105
Injuries and external factors
The Patriots lost 12 players to injured reserve this season. Eight of them from the Defense. Linemen Mike Wright, Myron Pryor, Andre Carter 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.
|71||21st||QB Hits Allowed||N/A||N/A|
QB Tom Brady (328/496 for 5,235 yds, 65.6%, 39 TDs, 12 INTs, 3 TDs rushing and a 105.6 QB Rating) is the undisputed starter for the Patriots. Brian Hoyer and Rookie Ryan Mallett are the reserves and haven't been needed this year.
The Patriots Running game is lead by BenJarvus Green-Ellis (181 Car, 667 yds, 3.7 avg, 11 TDs and 9 Rec, 159 yds ). Rookie Stevan Ridley (87 Car, 441 yds, 5.1 avg, 1 TD), Danny Woodhead (77 Car, 351 yds, 4.6 avg, 1 TD), Kevin Faulk (17 Car, 57 yds, 3.4 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 unit. The Fullback is Lousaka Polite (1 GM).
New England's Wide Receiving corp is made up of Wes Welker (122 Rec, 1,569 yds, 12.9 avg, 9 TDs) and Deion Branch (51 Rec, 702 yds, 13.8 avg, 5TDs). Chad Ochocinco (15 Rec, 276 yds, 18.4 avg, 1 TD), Danny Woodhead (18 Rec, 157 yds, 8.7 avg.), Julian Edelman (4 Car, 8 yds and 4 Rec, 34 yds), Tiquan Underwood (3 Rec, 30 yds) and Matthew Slater (1 Rec, 46 yds), who has been filling in at Safety, are the reserves.
Tight End's Rob Gronkowski (90 Rec, 1,327 yds, 14.7 avg, 17 TDs and 1 Car, 2 yds, 1 TD) and Aaron Hernandez (79 Rec, 910 yds, 11.5 avg, 7 TDs). 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 since 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 allowing Tom Brady the time he needs, but he still gets rattled when knocked down. The starters are LT Matt Light (1 False Start, 4 Hold, 3 Sacks Allowed), LG Logan Mankins (5 FS, 2 HLD, 5.5 SA) , C Dan Connolly (1 HLD, 1.5 SA) , RG Brian Waters (1 FS, 3 HLD, 0.5 SA) and RT Sebastian Vollmer (1 FS. 3.5 SA). Rookie Nate Solder (4 Pen, 3 HLD, 4 SA) backs up both Tackles. Ryan Wendell (1 HLD), Nick McDonald (4 G, 0.5 SA), Donald Thomas (1 FS, 1 SA), Rookie Marcus Cannon (7 G, 1 SA) and Danny Aiken (16 G) make up the rest of the unit.
This chart represents the Rankings for the Patriots Defense as compared to the Broncos Offense.
|N/A||N/A||QB Hits Allowed||24th||68|
The Patriots use a 4-3 Base look on Defense. The starting Defensive Linemen are LDE Shaun Ellis (14 TKL, 1 SK), DT Vince Wilfork (52 TKL, 3.5 SK, 3 PD, 2 INT, 1 FF), DT Kyle Love (33 TKL, 3 SK) and RDE. Mark Anderson (29 TKL, 10 SK, 1 PD, 2 FF), Brandon Deaderick (17 TKL, 2 SK), Gerard Warren (12 TKL, 1 SK) and Ron Brace (4 TKL, 1 FF) are the reserves.
The starting Linebackers are OLB Rob Ninkovich (74 TKL, 6.5 SK, 4 PD, 1 FF, 2 INT, 1 TD), ILB Jerod Mayo (95 TKL, 1 SK, 1 FF, 4 PD, 2 INT) and OLB Brandon Spikes (47 TKL, 1 PD). Gary Guyton (47 TKL, 1 PD,1 INT), Tracy White (37 TKL, 1 PD), Dane Fletcher (32 TKL, 1 PD) and former Bronco Niko Koutouvides (14 TKL) make up the second unit.
The starting Cornerbacks are LCB Devin McCourty (87 TKL, 12 PD, 2 INT) and RCB Kyle Arrington (88 TKL, 13 PD, 7 INT). Antwaun Molden (36 TKL, 3 PD,2 INT) and former Bronco Nate Jones (19 TKL, 1 PD) are the other options.
The Strong Safeties are James Ihedigbo (69 TKL, 1 PD), Sergio Brown (37 TKL, 1 PD, 1 INT) and 7th round pick Malcolm Williams (2 G). The Free Safeties are Patrick Chung (64 TKL, 1 SK, 4 PD, 1 INT), Matthew Slater (24 TKL, 1 FF) and Sterling Moore (7 TKL, 2 PD, 2 INT, 1 TD).
This chart represents the Rankings for both teams Special Teams Units.
The Kicker for the Patriots is Stephen Gostkowski, who is 28 for 33 (84.8%) in Field Goal Attempts. His longest this season is a 50-yarder and his career long is 53. Gostkowski has made all 59 Extra Point conversions. The average landing area on his Kickoffs is the 5 yard line. Stephen has 41 touchbacks in 103 Kickoffs (39.8%) and 59 have been returned an average of 21.6 yards.
The Punter and Holder for Place Kicks is Zoltan Mesko. Zoltan has punted 57 times for a gross average of 46.5 yards and a 41.5 Net. His longest for the year traveled 65 yards. Mesko has put 24 punts Inside the 20 yard line, 18 have been Fair Caught and 3 went for touchbacks. 26 of Mesko's punts have been returned for an 8.5 yard average.
The Long Snapper for New England is Rookie Danny Aiken (5 TKL). Aiken was claimed off the waiver wire and awarded to the Patriots after Buffalo cut him on Sept. 4th, 2011.
This matchup will be the third postseason meeting between the two teams and the first in New England. The Patriots are 0-2 against Denver in the postseason after AFC Divisional round losses in 1986 and 2005. Both of those games were played in Denver.