"This past regular season marked the first time in six attempts that the Broncos managed to beat a Patriots team with Rob Gronkowski, and Gronk didn't finish the game. Gronk has averaged 6.7 receptions on 8.7 targets for 86 yards and a touchdown over the prior six games against Denver."
Well, the Patriots actually have a second headache for the Broncos on the roster and his name is Julian Edelman.
Edelman did not play against the Broncos earlier this season (and neither did Danny Amendola) and that was a much bigger difference than most admit when evaluating the Patriots success against the Broncos vaunted defense.
For however dangerous Gronkowski can be for the Denver defense, Edelman's been an even bigger pain since becoming a starter. In fact, the two games where both Gronkowski and Edelman were active starters ended up as Patriots victories.
As the Patriots prepare to square off against the Broncos, the coaching staff will have to work on isolating Edelman in favorable match-ups throughout the game. Denver cornerback Aqib Talib struggles with the shiftier wide receivers, vaunted cornerback Chris Harris Jr. is battling a shoulder injury, and Bradley Roby allows a whopping average of 4.32 yards after the catch, per Pro Football Focus.
Historically, the Broncos put Harris in the slot if the Patriots show three wide receivers, where he can smother Danny Amendola. This puts Edelman against a cornerback that would struggle to contain him in space. If the Broncos put Harris on Edelman, then Amendola gets a similar mismatch.
Edelman's return helps put the Patriots offense back in control, even against the strongest of defenses.