|Notes and Observations Week 16: Patriots Escape from New York with 17-16 Win; Clinch First Round Bye.||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Win By Less Than a FOOT||Panic Mode in Full Effect, Minutemen are Struggling||Patriots Survive Gritty Challenge From Jets|
The most anticipated game of the year for the Patriots has finally arrived! The 9-1 Denver Broncos will be coming to face the 7-3 New England Patriots. Two of the top AFC teams will be facing off in this epic match-up and the Brady v. Manning rivalry will once again be renewed. Manning will be looking for revenge for last year’s loss against the Patriots, but Brady will be looking to help his team secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
All the talk this week has been on the Brady and Manning rivalry and the return of Welker. Both are definitely headline worthy, so let’s take a look at how these factors will affect the outcome of the game.
The Brady v. Manning rivalry has never failed to entertain. The two will be meeting head-to-head for the 14th time in their careers. Of the last 13 meetings, seven have been decided by a touchdown or less. Although Brady has the upper hand in this match-up having won 9 of the 13 meetings, Manning has thrown for more yards and touchdowns in those games. Look for that competitive, edge-of-your-seat trend to continue Sunday night.
As much as I love Brady and as much as it pains me to say this, individually Manning will have better game statistically than Brady. Through ten games this season, Manning out ranks Brady in pretty much all categories. Manning has completed 70% of his passes, compared to Brady’s 59%. Manning has also passed for 3,572 yards as opposed to Brady’s 2,552 yards, a difference of 1,020 yards. Manning also has 20 more touchdowns than Brady thus far in the season! That’s really no surprise if we look at the weapons Manning has around him, not to mention a running back that does not fumble the ball.
Manning’s receiving corps consists of weapons including former beloved Patriot Welker, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. Let’s just take a look at some of the numbers produced by both team’s top five leading receivers in terms of total yards and see what both defenses are in store for:
|Patriots Top Five Receivers||Total Yards||Receptions|
|Broncos Top Five Receivers||Total Yards||Receptions|
In terms of total yards, the Patriots top five are out-produced by 1,240 yards, pretty sad for the normally vaunted Patriots offense. Granted, their offense is dealing with injuries and rookies trying to learn the system but the offense has only really clicked once this whole season. On the bright side, all the receivers and Shane Vereen will be playing in their second game as a complete unit. Look for Brady to take advantage of the Broncos 22nd ranked defense as long as his offensive line can protect him.
Coach Bill Belichick has always been great at taking away the opponent’s biggest weapon, but who exactly would Belichick target this week? Welker? D. Thomas? Decker? The Broncos offense is too well-rounded and equipped with too many threats that taking one player out of the game would only allow the other players to step up. The Patriots’ biggest obstacle on Sunday is actually Peyton Manning himself, and it’s pretty hard to take one of the best quarterbacks of all time out of the game, especially if you are playing with the injury-decimated Patriots defense. Without any hope of actually stopping Manning, how will the Patriots defense slow him down?
There is no doubt Manning will have a field day against our inconsistent, “bend but don’t break” defense. The only way the Patriots will slow down Manning is by keeping him off the field and by forcing the Broncos to run the ball.
The Patriots will need to play efficient offense as their great defense. They will need to score first and often to force Manning to make mistakes and to ensure Manning stays on the bitter cold sidelines. The Patriots will need to take Manning out of his rhythm and play physical defense. This is when players like Chandler Jones will need to step up and pressure Manning.
The Patriots will force the Broncos to run the ball by playing physical defense on their receivers right off the line of scrimmage. One X-factor that will contribute to the game is cornerback Aqib Talib. Talib, who has been our best defender in the secondary, cannot have a repeat performance of his game against the Panthers or the Patriots defense will be in big trouble.
Many players have come and gone for the Broncos since last season’s match-up, but none more meaningful to this game than former Patriots receiver Wes Welker (sigh). Welker suffered a concussion last week against the Chiefs, but despite being questionable throughout the week, he is expected to start Sunday.
There is really nothing more I can say about the return of Welker that has not already been said. The only thing I will say is that I stand behind the statement I made earlier in the year that Welker will return and “stick it” to Bill. As much as Welker will deny this being an emotional return, we all know it is and his emotions will carry him to his best game of the year.
Sure, it seems as if I am making a strong case against the Patriots, but I do believe they will answer the challenge and barely beat the Broncos at home. They will have home field advantage and with weather predictions calling for temperatures in the teens on Sunday night, the chilly temperatures will hopefully be an advantage for the home team.
The Patriots also finally have all their pieces together on offense and are actually playing well. Besides, this is Brady we are taking about and I would never bet against Tom Terrific in a high pressure type of game, even if all the statistics are against him! Let’s just hope Stevan Ridley will do his part and keep the ball off the ground…
Lastly, the Patriots will be motivated after the questionable non-call at the end of Monday night’s game and will barely escape Gillette with a victory. Look for the Patriots to win 30-27 on a last second field goal by Stephan Gostowski to stay within reach of the top AFC seed. Get the popcorn ready and get the kids to bed early, because this should be another classic Sunday Night Football game!
Tags: Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, Erik Decker, Kenbrell Thompkins, Knowshon Moreno, New England Patriots, Peyton Manning, Rob Gronkoswki, Stevan Ridley, Sunday Night Football, Tom Brady, Wes Welker