AFC Game Of The Week
New England Patriots (11-2) at Denver Broncos (8-5)
Patriots– Every season around this time, the Patriots are always in good position. They have about 10-11 wins, they are close to locking the AFC East, a division that they have own pretty much since Belichick became the head coach and they’re always closing in on a first-round bye. After the injury to Rob Gronkowski, there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding them and he’s their spark plug in the passing game and it was said that without him, the Patriots won’t do much come January. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here because as of now, this is still the favorite in the AFC and what makes them great is how they gameplan. When a major piece isn’t on the field, they revolve the game around someone else and as of late, that’s been LeGarette Blount and Brady having a consistent running game to lean on could be dangerous for anyone in their path moving forward. Other receivers have also stepped it up. Rookie Malcolm Mitchell has made some big time catches and Chris Hogan has gone from a fourth option to another go-to receiver. You put anyone around Brady and he works with it. This has been a game circled on their schedule for a while, it’s the rematch of the AFC title game with Denver.
Broncos– At one point this season, we thought they would be just fine. It was a learning process for Trevor Siemian which we all expected but with C.J. Anderson and that defense back, they looked to be in good shape. C.J. injured his knee and has been out for over two months now and the defense is still good, but not as great as what it was a season ago. They’ve struggled to shut down the run all year long and this is where they truly miss the presence of Malik Jackson and he was their best player when it came to shutting down the running game. When I look at their offense, they have been extremely out of sync without Anderson running the ball and now we see just how much he means to that offense. It hasn’t been all that great for them this year, but they are still in the thick of the playoff race in the AFC. Winning their division is a long shot at this point, but a Wild Card isn’t necessarily out of the picture. Their path to the playoffs, however, won’t be an easy one. New England tomorrow, Kansas City next week at Arrowhead and they close the year out with a game at home against the Raiders and all three of those teams have ten or more wins.
Patriots Player To Watch– Martellus Bennett: With Gronk out, he needs to be targeted more, especially in the red zone. He’s 6’6, you can flank him out wide and he creates that mismatch all over the field which is a nightmare for any defender. If Brady gets him involved early on, it could be a really long day for the Broncos.
Broncos Player To Watch– A.J. Derby: The Patriots traded him to Denver and now, he will get that chance to show what he could’ve been in New England. The Broncos have dependent on their wide receivers and they haven’t had a consistent spark at the tight end position. Derby caught five passes last week against Tennessee.
Prediction: The last time we saw these two battle, it was in January in the AFC Championship and that was also the 17th and final meeting between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Also in that game, the Broncos pass rush absolutely annihilated the Patriots and hit Brady over 20 times. Everything will be different tomorrow. I like New England in this one. Patriots 24 Broncos 17.