Week 15 Patriots vs Broncos: 5 Things to Preview

The run game needs to show up. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Tim Tebow? Yeah, no room for error.

1. Turnovers - As we've examined, Tebow is the best quarterback in the league at protecting the ball. Yes, his accuracy is greatly impacted in a negative way, but he rarely puts the ball in a place where the defense can make a play and take it away. The Patriots and Tom Brady need to protect the football and not give Tebow any additional chances to put points on the board.

On the defensive side, the Patriots need to take advantage of the few errant throws by Tebow and they definitely need to try and force some fumbles. If the Patriots win the turnover contest, the Patriots will be in the drivers seat for the win.

2. Running Game - The Patriots have not rushed for over 80 yards in their past two games (the Colts and the Redskins), and the Broncos have a much better defense than either team. Unless Brady is flawless in the passing game, the Patriots running game while have to step up its performance to control the clock and ensure that the Broncos and Tebow don't force the Patriots into difficult first down conversion attempts.

On defense, the Broncos offense revolves around their efficient running game. Tebow has the fewest pass attempts in the whole league during his winning streak and that will remain the foundation of their offense. Of course, Tebow might try to take advantage of the Patriots secondary, and the Patriots will have to be prepared, but they have to definitely be ready to stop the run game. Tebow can run for over 50 yards in a game and he's their quarterback. Last week was the Broncos first game with over 200 passing yards since he took the starting role (although the Broncos passing yards have increased in each of their previous five victories), so it is imperative that the Patriots stop the running game and force Tebow to throw the ball.

3. Discipline - The Patriots offensive line seems to be called for more penalties than in recent memory. While that's not exactly true (they're on pace for a little over half a penalty more than their historical average), offensive penalties have had a habit of stalling potential scoring drives. Whoever plays center (Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Nick McDonald) needs to play well, while the Patriots need to be careful of false starts and holding calls. When the Broncos send their ferocious pass rushers towards Brady, the offensive line needs to do their job and not panic.

Facing Tebow, the Patriots need to show gap control to stop the Broncos triple option-like offense. Discipline. Don't bite on fakes. Play the play and do their job. Don't go beyond their position. Contain is the number one rule. All that stuff is in full effect. Everyone on defense must do their job to stop Tebow from moving the ball down the field.

4. Branch Out - Deion Branch is ruled out for the game. That means that someone else has to step up and perform. The Patriots played Tiquan Underwood when Branch was out at the end of the Redskins game, so he could see a larger role. Also, Chad Ochocinco could see some extra play time (although I think Underwood will get the nod). Look for Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, and Rob Gronkowski to see a larger role in the passing game, while Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis could see passes out of the backfield in order to compensate for the Broncos fast rushing attack.

5. 60 Minutes of Quality Football - Maybe I didn't specify as clearly as I should have in my points for victory against the Redskins; the Patriots have to play the full 60 minutes, but they have to make sure that they play quality football the entire game. They have to create such a lead that Tebow does not have a chance to make it a game in the fourth quarter. They cannot ease up. They can't end the game like they did against the Colts. They can't play the whole game like they did against the Redskins. They need to get a big lead and keep that big lead until the final whistle.

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