Mike Reiss serves up some quick-hit thoughts on Patriots-Broncos.
1. Patriots benefit from rematch. One of the takeaways from the Patriots' 41-23 win over the Broncos on Dec. 18 was how the defense had to adjust to Denver's unique option-based offense. Players talked about how it was one thing to practice against it -- they had Julian Edelman as the scout-team QB on the option package, and Ryan Mallett as the scout-team QB in the passing game -- but something significantly different to actually play against it. The Patriots' run defense struggled in the first quarter before settling down, and that experience should benefit the Patriots in this playoff rematch. Turnovers were big for the Patriots in that Dec. 18 game.
4. Should help to have Spikes back. Given the importance of limiting the Broncos' running game -- they had 252 yards on 31 carries against the Patriots on Dec. 18 -- the return of Brandon Spikes is notable. Spikes, one of the Patriots' best run-stuffing linebackers, did not play that day because of a knee injury. He returned for the season finale, giving him an important tune-up for a game in which the Patriots figure to play their fair share of eight men in the box. Safety Patrick Chung also didn't play in the Dec. 18 game.
5. Broncos struggled against Hernandez. In the Dec. 18 meeting, the Broncos held the Patriots' top two pass-catching weapons relatively in check -- Rob Gronkowski had four catches for 53 yards, while Wes Welker had 4 for 41 -- but it was tight end Aaron Hernandez who hurt them most (9 catches, 129 yards, 1 TD). It was a game in which receiver Deion Branch did not play (groin). The Broncos figure to place a heavy emphasis on better tackling after the catch.
6. Short week and Tim Tebow's passing not to be overlooked. This is good spot for the Patriots, playing at home and getting the Broncos on a short week (they played Sunday and now come back for a Saturday road game). That's one of the big benefits of the bye. Tim Tebow was 11 of 22 for 194 yards against the Patriots on Dec. 18, but he looked like a more confident passer against the Steelers (10 of 21 for 316, 2 TDs), converting on the deep ball. The Patriots figure to play differently than the Steelers, with the idea of not leaving themselves as exposed on the back end to protect against the big play.
- Game Preview - New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos. Broadcast info, series history, team connections and more.
- Paul Perillo and Andy Hart debate whether Bill O'Brien's departure will be a distraction to the team.
- The New England Patriots announced that Josh McDaniels has joined the team as an offensive assistant for the remainder of the 2011 season.
- New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick released a statement on Bill O'Brien.
- Patriots Today - Arrington's thoughts on playoffs. (4.22 min. video)
- Patriots Today - Fletcher on playoffs, Gronkowski. (3.38 min. video)
- Patriots All Access: Part 1 (17.27 min. video) and Part 2 (22.56 min. video)
- Patriots Roster Report - 1/06/12 Edition (13.29 min. program)
- Mike Reiss reports director of player personnel Nick Caserio was viewed by the Colts as a top candidate for their vacant GM position, but turned down the opportunity.
- Jeff Howe thinks Nick Caserio turning down a very enticing opportunity in Indy, shows just how highly he values his place in New England.
- Ian Rapoport reports the team's director of pro personnel, Jason Licht, has also been contacted by the Colts along with director of player personnel Nick Caserio.
- Christopher Price offers five early thoughts on the Patriots, Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels going against Tim Tebow and the Broncos Saturday night.
- Ian Rapoport discusses Josh McDaniels' return and how his pairing with Bill O'Brien can work.
- Kirk Minihane states the obvious (just like Phil Simms) that a Patriots loss to Tim Tebow would be a disaster.
- Tom E. Curran thinks that if the AFC Championship isn't played at Gillette Stadium in two Sundays, the Patriots have no excuses.
- Greg A. Bedard reports the Broncos are ecstatic at getting another shot at the Patriots.
- ESPNBoston passes along some comments from Broncos coaches and players on Saturday's AFC divisional round matchup against the Patriots.
- Paul Kenyon says the Patriots-Broncos storylines keep getting better.
- Ian Rapoport recaps the Broncos' wild-card win over the Steelers last night, and recalls Tom Brady's prediction that Denver and New England would meet again.
- Karen Guregian puts Tebowmania in perspective and tells us why it's a good matchup for the Patriots.
- Christopher Price notes the Patriots' playoff vets know how the game changes in the postseason.
- Mike Reiss shares his initial reaction to the news of Josh McDaniels rejoining the team.
- Jeff Howe sees the re-hire of Josh McDaniels as great for the Pats' offense, but it won't give them an added advantage over the Broncos.
- Bob Hohler gives us a peek inside the mad, mad world of Patriots star Rob Gronkowski, the touchdown machine and fan favorite.
- Nate Dow compares the first two years of TEs Rob Gronkowski and Hall of Famer Mike Ditka.
- Mike Reiss thinks it's unlikely that the Patriots will strike any contract extensions during the playoffs, but the team and Wes Welker might take another shot.
- Karen Guregian can easily see Robert Kraft has a special bond with this year's Patriots team, even if he won't say it directly for the record.
- Christopher Price posts his postional playoff preview: Defensive line.
- ESPNBoston posts some soundbites from Bill O'Brien's introductory press conference at Penn State, confirming his commitment to see the Patriots through the playoffs.
- Michael Whitmer pinpoints Sept. 7, 2008, as the last time the Patriots won the coin toss and elected to receive the football.
- Greg A. Bedard says no team has ever appeared in a Super Bowl allowing as many yards per pass attempt as the Patriots and Packers.
- Zuri Berry comes up with five things to worry about, and not worry about, for the Patriots in the postseason.
- ESPNBoston looks back at Pats-Broncos, Part 1.
- Mike Petraglia says he's going to miss the Jets in the playoffs this January, and why we should too.
- Adam Schefter (ESPN) Source: Patriots Nick Caserio denied Colts.
- James Walker (ESPN) Quick take: Broncos at Patriots.
- Mike Klis (Denver Post) Broncos, playoff teams should officially protest Josh McDaniels hire in New England.
- Don Banks (SI) Inside the NFL: Steelers dared Tim Tebow to win with his arm, and he did.
- NFL Live (ESPN) Merril Hoge and Eric Mangini take an early look at Pats-Broncos. (2.13 min. video)
- James Walker (ESPN) Patriots, Josh McDaniels need each other.
- James Walker (ESPN) The 2011 Walker Awards.
- Peter King (SI) MMQB: Tebow, Thomas validate McDaniels' big draft with Broncos' OT upset.
- Wild Card weekend. (Nat'l Football Post) Breaking down NFL
- Clark Judge (CBS Sports) Wild-card Judgements.
- Andy Benoit (NY Times) How Tebow and his helpers beat man coverage.