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Week 12 Game Plan: Patriots vs. Broncos

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The Patriots face a QB with one start under his belt. Can they take advantage of his inexperience and fend off the Denver defense to win?

"Play the Broncos with a banged up OL, decimated receiving corps, but a healthy defense? Challenge accepted." - Bill Belichick
"Play the Broncos with a banged up OL, decimated receiving corps, but a healthy defense? Challenge accepted." - Bill Belichick
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots will travel to Denver with a lot writing on this game. A win basically clinches the Patriots Home Field Advantage and a loss is a minor setback on that goal. The Patriots will face an inexperienced QB in Brock Osweiler, who is making his 2nd career start. On the other side of the ball, the Patriots offense is very banged up and the offensive line struggled with their communication in the Bills game. That's something that needs to get fixed this week because the Denver defense has more talent on there, although their pressures are more straightforward and easier to identify.

Contain Von Miller: Demarcus Ware's status is up in the air and the Broncos have a rookie pass rusher in Shane Ray who they drafted in the first round, but the focus for who to stop is Von Miller. Miller is a terrific player and will get his numbers, but the Patriots need to frustrate him with a chip from the TE or RB as they release into their routes. Miller often lines up on the offense's right, which means Sebastian Vollmer is likely playing RT for the game. Any play where Miller is dropping from his OLB position is a victory for the offense because their best pass rusher isn't rushing and they can attack him in coverage. The best way to prevent Miller from teeing off on the QB is to run misdirection plays and screens to James White, who should get more touches in the passing game.

Take Away the Outside Receivers: Even though the Patriots are facing an inexperienced QB, they still have two very potent outside threats in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. To combat this problem, the Patriots should put Malcolm Butler on Sanders and bracket Thomas with Logan Ryan trailing and Devin McCourty over the top. That would be the strategy if Sanders is healthy, but his status is up in the air after missing last week's game with a shoulder injury. If Sanders is unable to go, shadow Thomas with Butler. On the Broncos depth chart, they have Jordan Norwood, Cody Latimer, and Andre Caldwell behind Sanders. If the Patriots take away the perimeter threats, they can flood the middle of the field to take away the crossing routes.

Bring Pressure Up the Middle: When the Patriots defense is in obvious passing situations, the best way to affect Osweiler is pressure up the middle. He isn't Tyrod Taylor or Russell Wilson, so the defense doesn't have to worry too much about over-rushing the QB. With these big QBs the best way to attack them is up the middle and get them off the spot. I expect the Broncos to give him looks to move the pocket or give max protection throws. The Patriots will be getting Jamie Collins, so that means they can bring their Double A-Gap Pressure Looks for those situations. In that situation, both Hightower and Collins will line up over the center's two gaps and depending on which way the center turns will be who blitzes and who drops. With Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, and Jabaal Sheard all playing at a high level this year, I have hopes on the pass rush affecting this game like they did against the Bills.

For a final score, I predict the Patriots will win 24-17. It's going to be a defensive slugfest between two of the league's better defenses. It's going to come down to which team make enough plays at the end, and in that category I expect Brady to be that guy no matter what the game has turned into. Brady leads the Patriots to a TD drive with about 3 minutes left in the 4th quarter and the defense makes a final stop with a Logan Ryan interception ending Brock Osweiler's night.