The Denver Broncos have lost four consecutive games and five of their last six. The season has definitely slipped away from them. With the New England Patriots coming to town, it won’t get any easier.
With this being a must-win game for the Broncos have any hope of making a run towards the playoffs, they will need to exploit the matchup advantages with the Patriots and minimize the matchup disadvantages.
Here are some of the ways they can make that happen.
- First Downs. The Broncos defense was torched on first down against the Philadelphia Eagles last week and it ultimately led to a fifty-burger for Philly. Carson Wentz has the 8th best first down quarterback rating. The guy one spot ahead of him? Tom Brady. The Broncos defense has to come up big on first downs in this game.
- Third Downs. Few teams excel at getting off the field on third downs more than the Broncos. They boast one of the best defenses at getting off in third and medium and third and long situations. The catch is, Brady has the third-best passer rating on third downs this year behind only Wentz and Jared Goff. The wild card will be how the Broncos do covering Rob Gronkowski. Brady has a perfect 158.3 pass rating when throwing to Gronk on third downs this season.
- Big Plays. This is a matchup that goes both ways. Brady is a league leader in 20+ yard throws down field and the Patriots also among league leaders in explosive plays. while the Broncos defense is near the top in limiting those explosive plays - even after last week’s debacle.
- Pressure, Pressure, Pressure. One key aspect of the Broncos defense that seems to be missing this year is pressure. It’s kind of hit or miss, which is something we as fans are not use to seeing. We’ll call it the DeMarcus Ware retired effect. However, if the Broncos can somehow force Brady off his spot, he is one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL outside the pocket. However, if he is pressured while inside the pocket, Brady is by far the best quarterback in the NFL with a 124.5 passer rating. The next closest quarterback has an 85.5 pass rating, just to hammer the point home.
- Time for some offense! Not only does the Patriots defense nearly lead the league in explosive plays given up, they also allow one of the best opposing passer ratings in the entire NFL. Brock Osweiler should have himself a very good game and the Broncos will need that from him.
The NFL is always about matchups. You cannot take what happened last week and assume the same results this week. Each game is its own unique capsule of matchups. The Broncos actually matchup fairly well with the Patriots, especially on offense.
Rob Gronkowski will present the biggest challenge. Against the Chiefs, the Broncos keyed in on Karim Hunt and let Travis Kelce get his. This week, they need to key in on Gronk and let some other running back or wide receiver get theirs.
Limit Brady and the Patriots to less than 20 points and hope the offense finally shows up for the first time in nearly two months.