AVG. YDS (RNK)
AVG. YDS (RNK)
|6-2||Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA||6-1|
|1st AFC East||Spread: -3.5||1st AFC West|
The Denver Broncos feature the only NFL team to have both a Top 10 ranked offense (6th) and a Top 10 ranked defense (4th). The New England Patriots are close to joining that club ranking solidly in both total offense (10th) and total defense (12th).
If you look at points per game, you will find the Broncos remaining in that exclusive club with the highest scoring offense in the NFL and a defense in the top six (6th). The Patriots on the other hand, rank third in offensive points production, but middle of the pack on defense (14th). It's clear who the better team is, but anything can happen on the road when you got two Hall of Fame quarterbacks chucking the rock.
3 big questions for Broncos vs. Patriots
Can the Patriots find enough pass rush without Chandler Jones to pressure Peyton Manning? Will the Broncos find the right balance on offense?
Even NFL.com thinks the advantage is for the Broncos today. I'm not sure if that is a kiss of death or not, we'll just have to see this afternoon.
Broncos 34, Patriots 30
This game will obviously be a ratings magnet. One of the more interesting things I heard discussed on the radio this week was how the Broncos' back seven is almost all new, thanks to free-agency defections, injuries and additions. Middle linebacker Nate Irving, who started just a handful of games last year, has been made a full-timer, as has outside linebacker Brandon Marshall. The other outside linebacker, Von Miller, missed almost half of last season. Ditto for safety Rahim Moore. Safety T.J. Ward, meanwhile, was signed this offseason, along with corner Aqib Talib.
Can the host Patriots' high-powered offense (ranked third in points scored) rack up touchdowns against a Denver defense that is ranked sixth in points per game allowed? Will New England tight end Rob Gronkowski pull a Smaug again a week after swatting Bears defensive backs away like a bunch of clunky Dwarves? Will Bill Belichick use his ground attack more than he did in last year's AFC Championship Game, when the Pats ran the ball just 16 times?
Hmm. Is there anything else about this one that I'm missing? #DENvsNE
For me, the game changer today is going to be the weather. In 2013, this wind activity would have been a disaster for the Broncos high-octane passing attack and suspect defensive secondary. In 2014, however, the Broncos have found a running game to go along with an elite-style of bone crushing defensive play in all phases. There is a lot at stake in this game.
Prediction: Broncos 38, Patriots 28.