New England Patriots
Streak: Won 4
All-time vs. Denver: 19-26-0
Last time: Broncos 26, Patriots 16 (AFC Championship Game)
The Line: Broncos by 3.5
Every year it seems as if the fate of the AFC rests on this game. In reality, the Broncos have won the #1 seed twice in a row after losing road games to New England in consecutive seasons. Does New England have the talent to match the Broncos blow by blow the rest of the season? Probably not, but for the Broncos, this game is an opportunity to make a statement. A victory means that the Super Bowl will more than likely come through the Mile High City in the AFC.
QB Tom Brady
After starting the season in rather slowly, Brady has surged as of late. In his last four games, facing the likes of Cincinnati, Buffalo, New York Jets, and Chicago, he has completed about 74% of his passes for 1,268 yards and 14 touchdowns against no interceptions.
One of the biggest reasons for Brady's resurgence has been the return of "The Gronk."
TE Rob Gronkowski
Gronk is starting to gain some momentum less than a year removed from a devastating knee injury. He has been a vital part of the redzone passing game having registered a spectacular three-TD performance against Chicago this past Sunday. Brady has looked to Gronk for big plays down the field, and has become almost an automatic target within the 10-yardline where his big frame is so hard to defend.
WR Julian Edelman
Edelman has become less of a focal point in the Pats offense the past couple of weeks. He's been targeted 11 times for 5 receptions, 58 yards, and an uncharacteristic 4 drops. Brady is using his TE's more and the quiet emergence of move TE Timothy Wright has seen NE go back to it's patented 2 TE sets a la Gronk and Hernandez.
Julian is still a good punt returner and always needs to be accounted for on 3rd downs.
Matchup to Watch
Rob Gronkowski vs. The World
All joking aside, any Broncos success on defense come Sunday will depend on how much pressure it can get on Brady, and how it's secondary can contain the Gronk-ster. If you can limit his impact, especially in the redzone, it will mean New England is bringing field goals to a touchdown war.
Stick around Mile High Report all week long for film studies, statistical analyses, and many more in-depth looks at Denver's Week 9 opponent, the New England Patriots. What is your Matchup to Watch?