The Broncos defense is coming off a pretty solid showing last sunday. The Broncos held the Raiders to 6 points. Darren McFadden only had 34 yards rushing, and Carson Palmer only had 202 yards passing. Elvis Dumervil had 1.5 sacks, Chris Harris was credited with a sack, and Wesley Woodyard was credited with a .5 sack. MLB Keith Brooking filled in nicely for the suspended Joe Mays. It was the best showing all season for the Denver Broncos defense. Heading into Sundays contest the Denver Broncos rank 13th against the pass and 9th against the run. Solid numbers for this defense.
The Patriot defense is coming off a dominant performance against the Buffalo Bills. The Patriot defense did give up 21 points in 3 quarters to the Bills offense, before the Bills offense crashed and burned. The Bills offense turned the ball over 6 times. Cornerback Devin McCourty had two interceptions, keying a defense that forced six turnovers and had three sacks. It was a pretty dominant showing, but the defense didn't look great for the first two and half quarters. I'm giving more credit to the Bills team just choking than giving credit to the Patriots defense though. Coming into Sundays game, the Patriots rank 20th in pass defense and tied for the 7th best rush defense. Their secondary is ripe for the taking for Peyton Manning and company.
Now let's take a look at the starters for the New England Patriots Defense
OLB's: Jerod Mayo, Donta Hightower
ILB: Brandon Spikes
CB's: Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington
FS: Steve Gregory
SS: Patrick Chung
The New England defensive line is a pretty solid unit. Coach Belichick likes to show multiple looks on defense, so I would expect to see a lot of 4-3/3-4 looks from the defense. In the middle of the line is stud NT Vince Wilfork. He figures to be a problem all game. Dan Koppen is in for a long day. Next to Wilfork the Patriots have Kyle Love. They have promising rookie pass rusher Chandler Jones on the outside. Jones has 3 sacks on the year. On the other side, the Patriots have veteran Rob Ninkovich, Ninkovich has a sack and a half on the year. Overall this unit is solid. I like Clady and Franklin's chances against both Jones and Ninkovich though.
The Patriots OL has struggled against teams that can rush the passer(Arizona, Baltimore) and the Broncos can get after the passer. Pass rush specialist Elvis Dumervil needs to have a solid game this week. The past two weeks Dumervil has been turning it on. Rookie DE/DT Derek Wolfe needs to step it up a little bit this week. Outside of his week one performance, I haven't noticed Wolfe all that much in the pass rush department. In the middle, veterans Justin Bannan and Kevin Vickerson have been holding their own. The Broncos have been very admirable against the run this year. The Patriots are coming off a strong rushing performance, so this unit will need to step it up again this week.
I think this might be the Patriots strength. MLB Brandon Spikes is a solid run defender and OLB's Mayo and rookie Hightower are both talented. Mayo leads the team with 39 tackles, Spikes has 20 and Hightower comes in with 17 tackles. The Broncos OL/TE will need to block these guys if they want to be successful on the ground. Hightower is the only one of this group with a sack. I really like this unit, lots of talent.
The Broncos were without MLB Joe Mays, and they didn't miss a beat. I have been very critical of Keith Brooking since they signed him, but he played rather well last week. OLB Wesley Woodyard who is making everyone forget about DJ Williams leads the team with 26 total tackles, and has a INT and a sack and a half. Stud pass rusher Von Miller has 15 total tackles and 3 sacks. Veteran Keith Brooking has 13 total tackles and Joe Mays has 10. We'll need this unit to have a very solid game. The Patriots ran all over the Buffalo Bills and they will need to help out on Gronkowski too. I'm more worried about Gronk though.
The Patriots have a leaky secondary. They rank 20th against the pass, and gave up some big plays to Ryan Fitzpatrick last week. I like Mannings chances against this unit, but Belechick will try to confuse Manning and disguise the defense. It will be a fun chess match to watch. The Patriots have 6 total Int's(4 came last week against Buffalo). CB Devin McCourty leads the team 2. Rookie saftey Tavon Wilson has 2, and veteran safety Steve Gregory has one. I'm looking for Thomas and Decker to have solid games again this week.
The Broncos secondary will be the reason we win or lose this game. Someone needs to cover Gronkowski and Wes Welker. Also they can't sleep on WR Brandon Lloyd either, we all know what he's capable of. Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter and Chris Harris are in for a tough test this week. Rahim Moore, we need you to have a breakout game too. He has been great in run defense(25 tackles), but lets get a big INT. Mike Adams has been decent against TE's but not great. I'm worried that we don't have anyone who can really cover Gronkowski. Thankfully it seems like Aaron Hernandez will be out, but still will be a tough task. When John Elway went out and signed Porter and Adams, he did it to beat the Patriots, lets see if it works.