The matchup between the Patriots and Broncos is always highly anticipated, and for good reason. For the past four or five years, these games have yet to disappoint. Any Patriots loss is a disappointment of course, but I mean they’ve been really good games… Whatever you get the point.
Sunday afternoon’s game should be the last real test for the Patriots this regular season. I say “should” because the final games of the season against the Jets and Miami always prove to be a challenge for whatever reason.
For starters, let’s take a look at the injury report. Being so late in the season, it’s almost inevitable that key players are out with injuries or at least playing through them. Starting with New England… This entire receiving core has been beat up all season, especially Julian Edelman and Martellus Bennett. Now, Bennett is battling a shoulder injury on top of a nagging ankle that has been giving him trouble for weeks. Malcolm Butler is coming off of a hip injury suffered this past weekend against Baltimore. When asked if he’d sit this one out or not, Butler replied, “Got to show that toughness.” This Pats defense is finally coming together, so it would be a damn shame to have a top player in the secondary out against a team like Denver. Another important thing to note is defensive leader Dont’a Hightower has been limited in practice this week due to a knee injury. Although his status is “questionable,” just like everyone else’s except Danny Amendola, that’s something to really pay attention to considering he’s had trouble staying healthy over the past few seasons.
Denver’s injury report is interesting, I think. Brandon Marshall, who is most notably known this season for kneeling during the National Anthem, more so than anything he’s done on field, has already been ruled out. Advantage, New England. Marshall is apart of a Denver defense that loves pushing Tom Brady around, and without his agility along side super bowl MVP Von Miller, it saves Brady a little heat. Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, and former Patriot AJ Derby are also on the Broncos’ injury report despite all fully participating in practice this past week. It’s something to keep an eye on either way.
The reigning super bowl champs have had somewhat of a disappointing season, currently sitting at 8-5, and third in the AFC West. The Patriots, on the other hand, are not only atop the AFC East, but the entire AFC. Sunday should be a statement game for this Patriots team that’s finally putting the pieces together just in time for an epic post season run. Although the Broncos have not been as great as we all expected this season, coming off of a loss against the Tennessee Titans last Sunday, they’re still a tough contender. I’m not so sure I’d say the offense can match up with a defense that’s finally playing up to their potential, just because of the rookie quarterback situation, but the Denver defense has proved to be an issue for New England. Looking at last year’s AFC Championship game, the main issue was a weak offensive line. Less than weak, if you can think of a perfect word for it.
This year, however, I’m more than pleased with the amount of protection they’ve been able to give Brady. I thought the game against Baltimore would be the real test to see whether this offensive line could stand a chance, and it was pleasantly surprising. Terrell Suggs, one of my most hated players, had himself a pretty silent game thanks to this front seven.
Prediction time… New England is going to beat Denver, and it’ll be a hell of a game there’s no doubt about it.
Patriots win 31-17, improving to 12-2 on the season and clinching the AFC East provided all necessary pieces of that play out.
Although the Broncos will put up a fight as they always do against New England, I don’t think it’ll be enough to beat a team that’s heating up at the perfect time.