At 4:15 ET today, our New England Patriots face the Denver Broncos. Former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is now steering the ship and appears to be having a solid freshmen season. If I were Josh, this game would be at the top of my "I wanna win this" list. Playing against his former mentor and boss, McD would up his cache with a win against the first ballot lock, Bill Belichick. But can he outsmart the smartest man in football? Did Bill really pass on everything he knows? Or is it about the players more than the coaches?
As I wrote in A tale of the tape: New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos, the Patriots have garnered a 3-1 record against tougher teams based on this week's Football Outsiders DVOA rankings. This could lead one to believe that Denver's 4-0 has been an "easier road" than our 3-1. However, statistics may be fun and all, but they don't mean squat come gameday. Just ask Denver WR Brandon Stokley.
Both team's top running backs, Fred Taylor for the Patriots and Correll Buckhalter for the Broncos, are sitting today so the question is what does that do to the running game? I'm not sure about Denver, but I believe New England will spend a fair amount of time either on the ground or using their running backs in various situations. Remember how much Tom Brady aired it out to Sammy Morris? Who knew Sammy had such good hands.
From a passing defense perspective, Denver simply doesn't give up a lot of yards in the air. Their defensive backfield is strong, especially at corner with the likes of Champ Bailey and Andre Goodman. So, where do you go? Yet again, this is where Wes Welker excels. You go underneath with "the long handoff" and march down the field. Forget about getting the ball to Moss early in the game. When the safeties pull in a bit or miss double teaming Randy, try getting it to him. Remember, Moss is fast, but he takes time to get up to speed.
Offensively, Denver is not lighting up the boards; not one win had them in the thirties. And with one of their big weapons (Correll Buckhalter) sitting today, limiting their production could be the way to win this game. As "Belichick-ian" as it sounds, simply score more points than they do.
I think this is going to be a low scoring game. Denver is not known to rack up points on offense, but their defense is strong and can prevent other teams from scoring points.
Prediction: NE 21 @ DEN 14