The Teams: Denver Broncos (4-2) At New England Patriots (3-2)
The Terms: Regular Season Week 7
The Place: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass
The Time: 8:30 pm
The Channel: ESPN
3 Burning Questions:
- How does the team respond from last Sunday night’s beat down: The blowout loss to the Dolphins was shocking, but last weekends dismantling of the Patriots in all three phases of the game by the Chargers was downright predictable (I know because I predicted it). The Pats weren’t beaten by some crazy ‘wildcat’ scheme led by a dynamic running back, they were beaten at almost every position on the field. Yes, the secondary gave up big plays time after time, but when you go back and look at the tape a lot of honus is on the safeties for no help over the top AND the vaunted yet disappointing front seven, who did not even hit Philip Rivers once in the entire game. Enough about last week. The Broncos now come into town with a 4-2 record and a hungry team also coming off a tough loss. Again we look at the team and see a lot of veterans so one would think they would respond with fire and passion, but that’s exactly the thing that’s been missing from this team all year. I would love to see some of our veteran defenders go out there and really rough some people up on the first series. If not, the pressure will begin to build as the Patriots look to avoid falling to .500.
- Running game anyone? BREAKING NEWS! Laurence Maroney is, again, out with a bum shoulder. Seriously, this guy has Manny Ramirez syndrome without the skills. Lamont Jordan as well will be out with injury so it’s up to Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk to carry (no pun intended) the load. Matt Cassel cannot be expected to carry the load so Faulk and Morris must establish a running game early on. The offensive line has been banged up physically and mentally since last February and it’s time for them to start pushing their weight around. Last week against the Chargers the Pats couldn’t punch it in from inside the five because they didn’t trust the line and the running game to get the job done. Look for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to get Faulk and the screen game involved early to make the safeties push up so they can go over the top to Moss.
- Which Jekyll and Hyde front seven will we see? As I’ve mentioned before, we all knew coming into the season that the secondary would be a weakness. What we (and I’m sure the coaching staff) expected is the pressure on the secondary would be minimal because the front seven would control the line of scrimmage and apply pressure, forcing quarterbacks to make perfect throws. We have seen that in some games, but in the two blowout losses they’ve looked old, slow and passion-less. Someone needs to light a fire under them because the front seven is supposed to be the most skilled part of this team. Much was made about Richard Seymour being healthy this year but his contributions have been limited, that goes for Ty Warren as well. I’ve hated enough on the outside linebackers, but it must be mentioned how ineffective Vrabel and Adalius Thomas has been. One good thing I will say is the rush defense has been solid all season. But against Jay Cutler – another gunslinger with a cannon arm – we could see the Broncos try to make it rain against Deltha O’Neal and Ellis Hobbs. I think we’ll see a lot better scheming from Belichick and defensive coordinator Dean Peas this week to take the pressure off the secondary.
It’s getting tougher and tougher to predict what we’ll see from this team. I think much of the problem with the team is scheming and passion. Call it what you want, but the Patriots do not have the swagger they did in the past. We didn’t see it in the preseason but we let it go, but it has carried over into the regular season and it has an effect on the team there’s no doubt about it. Tomorrow night, Bill Belichick will not let his team get embarrassed on national TV for a second straight week. It’s a very important game for Matt Cassel because it’s time for him to take the next step in the offense. He’s been at the helm for six full weeks and he needs to make some NFL plays or the Patriots don’t have a chance. The Broncos are a tough foe but I think the Pats will be able to establish the running game and will handle Cutler and the passing game. The game will be close throughout and I see a late Stephen Gostkowski field goal being the difference.
Patriots 26, Broncos 24
Tags: Adalius Thomas, Bill Belichick, Deltha O'Neal, Ellis Hobbs, Jay Cutler, Kevin Faulk, Lamont Jordan, Laurence Maroney, Matt Cassel, Mike Vrabel, Philip Rivers, Randy Moss, Richard Seymour, Sammy Morris, Stephen Gostkowski, Ty Warren, Wes Welker