UPDATE: Patriots have signed DB Justin Green to the 53-man roster from the practice squad and released veteran RB Leon Washington. Arrington, Dennard, Gregory, & Talib are questionable for Sunday night.
Del Rio on Wes Welker: “If you had the ‘definitely will go’ category, he’d probably be on there.”
A WINDY, COLD SUNDAY NIGHT COULD IMPACT THE SCORE.
PATRIOTS VS BRONCOS: BATTLE OF THE HEAVYWEIGHTS
Over the years there have seen some great heavyweight battles. For those of us old enough to remember, Ali-Frazier is one that immediately comes to mind
…but in Boston, how about:
PATRIOTS VS BRONCOS: BATTLE OF THE HEAVYWEIGHTS
All of these “heavyweights” had one thing in common. They were ”Teams,” not just individuals. Yes, they all had great players, like Bobby Orr, Larry Bird and David Ortiz, who were leaders… but what made them “heavyweights” was (ta-da)…they all had more than (OK English majors, “than” or “then“…I always get them mixed-up) one player who could to beat you.
And now, we are very close to adding another heavyweight battle, Patriots – Broncos.
PATRIOTS VS BRONCOS: BATTLE OF THE HEAVYWEIGHTS ON SNF
Just as those other great “heavyweights” had more than one punch, so do both the Patriots and Broncos. Although everyone is focusing on the Tom Brady-Payton Manning match up, they cannot win the game without help from others.
Let’s start by looking at some of the other weapons these teams have.
Despite reputations as primarily “Air-Attack” teams, both can run the ball effectively when they need to.
Controlling the clock keeps Manning off the field, so it is important that the Patriots establish their ability to run.
- The Patriots cannot ignore 5th year RB Knowshon Moreno, who leads Denver with 600 yards (4 YPA) rushing and has 8 TDs.
- By the same token, the Broncos can’t forget about Shane Vereen (more on him later) or Stevan (I’m putting glue on my hands) Ridley. Ridley leads the Pats in rushing with 563 yards (4.3 YPA) and has 7 TDs. LaGarrette Blount, when relieving Ridley, has been a pleasant surprise, averaging 4.5 YPA and scoring 2 TDs. Against Carolina Blount had 10 rushes for 49 yards, including seven rushes for 35 yards in the second half .
When they put the ball in the air, QBs need someone to catch it… and both these teams have a multitude of options.
As Devon McCourty said “Their best guy is a bunch of guys.”
- Denver is led by WR Demaryius Thomas, who is already approaching 1,000 yards receiving (currently 914) and challenges you deep by averaging 15.2 YPC. In addition, he has scored 9 TDs. If you focus too much attention onhim, they hit you with Eric Decker, who has 54 catches for 792 yards (14.7 YPC). If those 2 don’t get your attention, how about old friend Wes (But I wanted to stay!) Welker? He is back at practice and listed as probable. Welker leads the Broncos with 61 catches. As with Brady, when he was with the Patriots, he is Manning’s security blanket.
Welker usually gets the ball short and picks up much of his yardage after the catch (10.6 YPC) and has accumulated 648 yards. Are you impressed yet? No! Then let me add one more, TE Julius Thomas, who is questionable for the game. If he plays, his 9 TDs, 490 Yards, 13.1 YPC would worry a team that was good against the TE, which we know the Patriots are not.
- Statistically, the Patriots don’t come close to the numbers Denver has racked up…but, watch out! The offense is starting to get healthy. For just the 2nd game this year the full complement of weapons are ready to play. Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amondola, Julien Edelman, Aaron Dobson & Shane Vereen are all capable of putting up big numbers and will get the opportunity to do so Sunday night.
You cannot under-estimate just how good, offensively, the Broncos have been. They are #1 in the NFL in three important categories.
- Points Per Game 39.8
- Yards 455.5
- Passing Yards 350.4
Add that to the fact Manning has thrown 34 (no, that’s not a typo) TDs with just 6 INTS and a QBR of 118.3 and you can see the challenge the Patriots defense will have Sunday.
IS THE PATRIOT’S OFFENSE READY TO SCORE SOME POINTS?
I don’t think anyone is predicting this to be a defensive showdown, so the question is: Can the Pats go toe-to-to with this offensive juggernaut?
…and the answer is…a definitive…(pregnant pause for effect)… YES! In fact, not only Yes, but hell YES! And here’s why:
- Tony Romo (yes THAT Tony Romo) had over 500 yards against the Denver defense early this season
- Denver is 23rd in the NFL in points allowed (25.5)
- 23rd in Yards Allowed (371.8)
- 28th in Pass Yardage Allowed (279.1)
- The Broncos are -2 in turnovers.
New England had their turnover streak broken last week at Carolina -the first time in 36 straight games they didn’t have a takeaway. The Patriots haven’t gone back-to-back without a takeaway since 2005! With the Broncos, they hope to start a new streak…they lead the league with 13 fumbles.
The Patriots have not yet come close to peaking offensively. They moved the ball at will last week against Carolina, who had the #1 defense in the NFL. And that was the 1st game all season that Tom Brady was able to use all his weapons…and those weapons are ready to explode.
Shane (But he can’t dance like Ben) Vereen
In his 1st game back, after injuring his hand in the first game of the season, he played on only 34 of 72 snaps. Despite that he led the Patriots in both catches (8) and yards (65)
Was he happy to be back? “Just to be out there with the guys, with the team, and feel a part of the team again and feel I could contribute is awesome.”
Was Brady happy to have him back? “I think the best part is he really understands the importance and magnitude of that role and takes a lot of pride in it. It’s a hugely important part of our offense.”
So, how much does Vereen “impact” the Pats offense? Well:
- Three of the Patriots’ 5 third-down conversions against Carolina came on passes to him.
- He had nine touches for 72 yards — seven of them went for first downs, and three converted third downs
- 5 of Vereen’s 15 receptions this year have come on third down, and all of them have moved the chains.
- In the two games he’s played, the Patriots have converted 16 of 30 third-down attempts (over 50%). In eight games without him, they went 33 for 107 (30.8 percent).
It’s not all about Vereen.
- The Pats OL had by far it’s best game of the season against one of the top front sevens in the NFL. They allowed just 2 sacks, both in the 1st half.
- Tom Brady was a sparkling 25-of-29 passing until the final drive, when the Panthers knew he had to pass. When the Patriots got the ball with :59 seconds to go (BTW, the clock showed it should have been 1:02) he drove them the to the Carolina 18 with an opportunity to win…then came the non-call, which I won’t talk about right now…other than to recommend you look at this ESPN Video http://t.co/3eHksM3NLd
- Stephen Gostkowski continues to set Patriot records by scoring in every game. After a slow start he has become invaluable. Gostkowski has not only become “Mr. Reliable” on FGs, but also is driving the ball on kick-offs, forcing teams to start deep in their own end of the field.
As Kenny Loggins (I always have to make one reference for my “More Mature”-as in old-readers) once sang “THIS IS IT” (1981 GRAMMY WINNER)!
HOW WILL IT END?
There are a lot of factors which will determine who wins this game.
- It sounds logical, but I’m going to say it anyway…the team with the most healthy players should win. Both have key players who either won’t play or, if they do, will not be at the top of their game.
- Speaking of injuries, will the Patriots be able to put together a somewhat healthy secondary? Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Steve Gregory and Kyle Arrington are all injured.
- With the exception of Welker, the Bronco receivers are big & physical. Hard to believe, but the Pats backfield has had more success against that type of receiver than they have against the small speedy, shifty guys.
- Will Wes Welker welcome (try saying that fast 5 times and win the kewpie doll) his return to Foxboro? He is now listed as probable.
- BB was effusive (that’s my $10 word for the day) in his praise and appreciation for what WW has accomplished. “He’s done a good job for them,” Belichick said. “He’s a good player.” Hey, that took a lot for him to extoll WW’s virtues like that!
- Will the officials have an impact on the outcome (sorry, had to throw that one in)
- Can the Patriots make Payton Manning think about his injury? He is still lightening fast with his release and reads the blitz as well as anyone in the game, so pressure will have to come quickly…without blitzing!
So now, in Patriots vs Broncos: Battle Of The Heavyweights, it’s time to make my pick…and it is…(man, this one is tough, can I wait a few more days to see who is healthy?)….A second straight big game for both teams…Broncos beat KC last week, while Patriots dropped a tough one to Carolina..They reverse those results Sunday night.
Home-field Advantage (Pats have not lost at home this year) goes to Patriots in exciting 37-35 victory.
Let’s not get too excited preparing for this one (sure Bob, that’s gonna happen)…try to be calm while watching all the day games…and be ready for SNF. The Patriots are ready…I’m ready…and I know you are ready…so “Let’s Play Some Football.” At this point everyone puts their hands together and yells “Go Team” and runs out the tunnel to a cloud of smoke…oh no, that’s right, it’s the players that do that, not the fans!
Have a great week. While waiting, I’ll be updating this post as teams release more injury information, so be sure to check back later.
If you follow me on Twitter @SnowdonBob you will be able to see immediately when I add information.