The Broncos offense looked the best it has all year last week against the Oakland Raiders. Peyton Manning lead the way with 338 yards and 3 touchdowns. Willis McGahee topped the 100 yard barrier for the second time this year, gaining 112 yards and getting a TD. WR Demaryius Thomas lead the team with 103 yards receiving in what could have been a bigger day if he didn't fumble.
The Broncos opponent, The New England also have a dangerous offense. Last week, the Patriots but up 52 big ones on the Buffalo Bills. Brady passed for 340 yards and 3 touchdowns. They also had a pair of running backs top the 100 yard barrier. Rookie Brandon Bolden gained 137 yards and a score, and Stevan Ridley gained 106 yards rushing and added 2 scores. WR Wes Welker was unstoppable. Welker caught 9 balls for 129 yards, and teammate TE Rob Gronkowski had 5 catches for 104 yards and a score. WR Brandon Lloyd and RB Danny Woodhead also had touchdown receptions.
Now lets take a look at the starting offense for the New England Patriots.
QB: Tom Brady RB: Stevan Ridley FB: Lex Hilliard WR's: Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker TE: Rob Gronkowski OL: Sebastian Vollmer(RT), Donald Thomas(RG), Dan Connolly(C), Logan Mankins(LG), Nate Solder (LT)
Future Hall Of Famer Tom Brady will lead the Patriots offense against the Broncos this Sunday. Brady on the year has 1227 yards passing, 7 touchdowns and only 1 interception. Brady has a completion percentage of 62% and a QB rating of 102.4. So in other words, Tom Brady is having another great year. The Patriots have the 6th best passing offense in the NFL right now. Brady will pick apart defenses and not make many mistakes. The key to beating Brady is pressuring him. The New York Giants, have the blueprint on beating Brady. Get pressure in his face, make him move his feet and throw the ball before he's ready. The Broncos defense can do that, so we'll see how that works out for both parties.
Peyton Manning looked great last week. He was accurate, showed good arm strength deep and make great decisions. That's the Peyton Manning that John Elway, John Fox and Pat Bowlen hoped to see when they signed him this winter. Four weeks into the season, Manning is having a solid year. Manning has passed 1162 yards, 8 touchdowns and 3 interceptions so far this year. Manning is completing 64.7% of his passes, and has a 96.9 QB rating. Manning has lead the Broncos to have the 9th best passing offense in the NFL. Manning will need to keep up his mistake free play, and pick apart the Patriots secondary. Coach Bill Belichick will figure to give Manning plenty of different looks on defense. Both are very familiar with each other. It will be fun to watch both Brady and Manning Sunday.
The Running Backs:
The Patriots have the 8th best rushing offense in the NFL right now. Last weeks performance really helped their positioning though. The Buffalo Bills allowed 247 yards on the ground and 4 touchdowns. I'm not discounting the Patriots ground attack, but i believe the Bills defense is more at fault than New Englands running game being that good. I watched the game, and Buffalos defense looked a lot like past Broncos defenses. Leading the way for the Patriots rushing attack is Stevan Ridley. Ridley has 339 yards rushing on 74 carries(4.6 YPC) and 3 touchdowns. Un-Drafted rookie Brandon Bolden has 152 yards on 23 carries, and has a lofty 6.6 YPC. However he did gain 137 of that last week against the 28th ranked rush defense. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots rush offense is this weekend. I'm not buying into it right yet, but they could prove me wrong Sunday.
Heading into Sunday, the Broncos have the 14th ranked rush offense in the NFL. Leading the way is veteran runner Willis McGahee who is leading the way for the Broncos rush offense. McGahee has 325 yards on 69 carries (4.7 YPC) and has 3 touchdowns. The Broncos will need another strong performance from McGahee this week. I expect the Broncos to try to keep Brady on the bench as much as possible, and try to control the time of possession. Having a strong run game really really helps that out. I'm hoping we see more of rookie Ronnie Hillman this week. Hillman had 10 carries for 31 yards last week, and added 2 receptions for 32 yards. That's 12 touches for 63 yards, which is 5.25 yards per touch. The Broncos need to find more ways of getting the ball into Hillman's hands. He can pile up plenty of yards on the ground game/passing game if given the chance. Obviously I'm being a bit positive, but i liked what I saw from our rookie last week. Lance Ball has been pretty ineffective in the run game so far this year. Ball has 16 carries for 44 yards, which averages out to be 2.8 YPC. Ball is helping out in the passing game though. Ball has 3 catches for 33 yards and 1 touchdown. I'm hoping to see good things from this group on Sunday!
The Patriots have slot machine Wes Welker looking un-stoppable again. Since the Patriots lost TE Aaron Hernandez, Welker has totaled 22 catches. It looks like Welker is Brady go to man again. So far on the year, Welker has caught 25 balls for 380 yards(15.2 YPC). Brandon Lloyd also has 25 catches for 287 yards and 1 touchdown. Julian Edelman has also caught 10 balls for 85 yards. I like our corners chances against these guys. Champ, Porter and Harris are all capable of covering these WR's, they just need to do it well consistently. The Lloyd/Champ matchup will be a fun one to watch!
Thomas and Decker have lived up to expectations so far this year. Each has been solid, and hopefully is cleaning up their game a bit. Decker leads the team with 27 receptions for 322 yards and 1 TD and Demaryius Thomas has 21 catches for 325 yards and 2 TD's. Decker has been Mannings go to guy, while DT has been his big play guy. The Broncos have their own little slot machine in Brandon Stokley. Stokley has been old reliable for Manning. Stokes has grabbed 13 big catches for 158 yards. Not bad for a 36 year old WR. We'll need another strong performance from this group of WR's. Hopefully they got over their case of dropseys and have a solid performance this sunday
The guy I'm most worried about is Rob Gronkowski. How the hell do the Broncos cover this guy? The Broncos have struggled against TE's all year long, and Gronkowski is up their among the leagues best. Gronk has 19 receptions for 260 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is Brady's go to guy in the red zone. The Broncos really need to figure out how to cover this guy. The Patriots also have former Bronco Daniel Fells. Fells is a solid run blocker, so look out for him on running downs. Luckily it looks like the Patriots will be without TE Aaron Hernandez again this week. Still will be a tough task for the Broncos defense though.
I wanted the Broncos TE's to step up last week, and they did. Jacob Tamme had a solid day, especially on that opening drive, and TE Joel Dreessen had a spectacular TD catch. Also the Broncos get back suspended TE Virgil Green. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the teams plans. I would expect him to be inactive this week while he gets back into football shape and grasps the offense. I've been hoping to see Julius Thomas out there, but he's been invisible so far this year. Hopefully he can get over his nagging injury and make an impact before the season is over.
The Patriots have the 9th ranked offensive line in the NFL right now. They're allowing 4.2 yards per rush on the ground, but have allowed 8 sacks and 17 QB hits so far. This O-Line has been inconsistent so far this year. They struggled against Arizona and Baltimore, but looked much approved against the disappointing Buffalo Bills front seven. It looks like they will be getting back Pro Bowl Guard Logan Mankins too. His addition will be major help.
The Denver Broncos have the 10th ranked offensive line in the NFL. They're allowing 3.9 yards per carry on the ground, but have allowed 8 sacks and 14 QB hits. It looks like the Broncos may be getting back guard Chris Kuper. Kuper was a full participant in Thursdays practice, so we could see him out there Sunday. The Broncos lost Center J.D Walton for the year last week. Former Patriot and recently signed Center Dan Koppen will take over for Walton. Koppen played well last week for the Broncos in extended action. We'll need him to have a solid game this week going up against NT Vince Wilfork.
Stay tuned for my take on the Defense.