While this could be some last minute gamesmanship, it appears that the Denver Broncos are going to try and mix up coverages to prevent New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady from developing a rhythm. While this is a great idea in theory- Brady is definitely inclined to go on hot/cold accuracy streaks- it also means that the Patriots offense could really dictate the game.
I'm told Broncos don't plan on shadowing any Patriots WRs today. As a unit decided it doesn't play to their strengths as a secondary.— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) January 24, 2016
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), the Patriots use motions more than any other team in the league and that Brady's a far more effective passer when motion is utilized. If the Broncos are going to mix up their coverages, the Patriots will respond by using motions to determine what Denver's defense is playing, which seems to be playing right into Brady's hands.
If the Broncos aren't shadowing, then the Patriots can find ways to put Julian Edelman outside against Bradley Roby or Aqib Talib- players that don't match well against Edelman's skill set. Rob Gronkowski could be a position to attack linebackers and safeties in the second level.
I'm curious as to what the Broncos secondary is thinking. They've actually only shadowed receivers in three of their 17 games, per PFF, and those match-ups made sense. The Lions (Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate), the Colts (Andre Johnson and T.Y. Hilton), and the Steelers (Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown) feature a pair of receivers with greatly different skill sets.
It's possible that the Broncos are not categorizing Brandon LaFell as a good enough threat to warrant Talib's full attention (I would expect Talib or Roby to cover Gronkowski on occasion), but if Harris isn't shadowing Edelman, then the Patriots should use motions to have the match-up advantage every single time.