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NFL Playoffs Patriots vs Broncos Five Questions: Denver D has "no glaring weaknesses"

With spoke with sadaraine of Mile High Report to get the inside scoop on the Denver Broncos.

1) The Broncos lost a couple players in the first go-round that will be back, including Demarcus Ware and T.J. Ward. How have they affected Denver when they've been on the field?

DeMarcus Ware was flat out disruptive against the Steelers in the divisional round. His health takes our ROLB position from a B to an A in my mind. We have a lot of young talent behind him, but his veteran mind adds a whole different level of impact on the field. He also lends a lot of confidence in those around him when he's out there. Leadership is a big reason he was brought to Denver and it shows on game day.

T.J. Ward brings an attack aspect to our secondary that otherwise can be tentative with the very raw backups we have behind him (Josh Bush and Shiloh Keo). Ward adds a very dangerous safety blitz option to the table that can't happen as effectively with anyone else (though whether or not that is wise against Brady is another story). Even in the run game there is more aggression from the defense when Ward is out there. He isn't talented in man coverage, but he has play diagnosis ability in spades and that allows him to decisively attack the ball.

2) Peyton returned after a hiatus and he looked to be in the same form as his Packers game. Are the Broncos confident that he's back, or is he just a better option than Brock Osweiler at this point?

I had my doubts from week 17, but his throws in all honesty looked much better in the divisional round than I had seen from him in a long time (probably the Green Bay game you mentioned). I do think the Broncos are confident in him and that though Brock may throw a zippier pass and have more mobility, they really think that Peyton's ability to read and audible are going to serve the team better in the playoffs.

3) Gary Kubiak always has his way against the Patriots in the run game. Have you seen any teams effectively eliminate it and how did it happen?

I haven't seen teams eliminate it per se. I have seen our line block so horribly (not choosing their zone combo blocks properly being the biggest culprit earlier in the season) that it stymied any semblance of a decent run game. Luckily most of that happened in the front half of the season and they are being much more consistent now. The line isn't dominating, but they execute the scheme well at this point and have made the run game the effective tool we need it to be for post season success regardless of opponent.

4) How does the injury to Chris Harris impact the Denver secondary and what is his outlook for Sunday?

He really hasn't looked like himself in the past couple of games which really puts our defense on shaky ground. CHJ is one of the most talented corners in the game today. When he is able to execute to his fullest potential you have a corner who can play inside, outside, or at safety understanding exactly how the coverage works for the play called all around him and will put himself in the best position to defend his assignment every time. He's consistently excellent when healthy that limits passing attacks who challenge his assignment to low production.

That being said, he has had a bum shoulder the past two games that he's played in and it has heavily influenced his game. He has been a step off and unable to recover (which is usually one of his strong suits). Reports from Harris and the media have been that he is feeling much better this week and is confident that he will be able to go. If he is even at 75% we will be just fine and he'll at the very least be able to match up on your #3 WR so that Talib and Roby can handle the higher priority targets.

5) What is the weakness in the Broncos defense?

The only weakness that I have seen in this defense at any manner of consistency has been our safety depth. Pittsburgh has taken huge advantage of the times that Bush and Keo have been on the field in both the regular season and post season. At the end of the year big plays were being made in the secondary because Darian Stewart (my personal 2015 defensive MVP for the Broncos) and T.J. Ward were out.

Wade Phillips believes in rotating the defense and keeping guys fresh even in the secondary. While Stewart and Ward were completely healthy in the divisional round, Josh Bush still played 48% of the snaps (rotation and being in on dime packages). If you see anything happening in this game outside of Edelman and Gronk (who are matchup nightmares against any team), it will be in all likelihood because Brady has caught Bush on the field and got a designed match-up that makes him have to make a play.

Outside of that, there are no glaring weaknesses on the defense. Your run game will not work. Our corners are awesome in coverage. Our linebackers clean up like nobody's business. Last but not least, our pass rush is phenomenal. If any defense in the league can meet the post season challenge that the Patriot offense brings to the table, it is this defense.