By Mike DeVito
The Patriots return from their bye week with the second half of the season in front of them and an extended trip out west to take on the Broncos this week and the Raiders in Mexico City in week 11. The Patriots are going to stay out on the left coast in between these two games to limit travel, but speaking for myself, I wasn’t a fan of things like this, that would take me out of my typical week of preparation. This is just one of the challenges the Patriots face as the weather turns cold and November football unfolds.
When Denver has the ball
The Patriots have to get pressure on Osweiler.
The Denver offense has sputtered so drastically that they’ve fallen back on Brock Osweiler who got the start in Philadelphia last Sunday. In his first start of the season, Osweiler went 19-38, 208 yards, 1 td, 2 picks and was sacked 3 times. The Denver offensive line didn’t do Osweiler any favors against Philly, just as they hadn’t for Trevor Simien previously. The Patriots have struggled to generate much of a pass rush this season, but the chance for the Patriots to pressure Osweiler should be there against this shaky unit. Denver may be without tackle Donald Stephenson, who was limited all week in practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday.
Limit big plays.
Even though the Broncos haven’t lit the world ablaze this season, it’s isn’t due to lack of fire power, it has more to do with lack of consistency. The Broncos can score by throwing the ball down field to playmakers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. As we saw with the Patriots defense earlier in the season, a few 70+ yard plays can make up for lack of ability to consistently move the football.
When New England has the ball.
Get off to a fast start.
Under first year head coach Vance Joseph, if you are able to get a lead on this edition of the Broncos they will let their shoulders slump. It was evident watching their effort last week against a very good Eagles team, which once the Broncos got down, they lacked the mental toughness to climb back into the game. If the Patriots offense, which has stalled in the red zone the last 4 games, can net a long drive that results in a TOUCH DOWN (no more settling for field goals) then the Patriots could control this Sunday Nighter from bell to bell.
Denver still has Von Miller.
The Broncos defense has been very un-Denvery this season, but one thing that they can still do is rush the passer. Von Miller is doing Von Miller things and has 31 solo tackles and 8 sacks. The Patriots have struggled to keep Tom Brady upright this season and one needs not look very far back into history to see the havoc that Miller has wreaked against the Patriots. Last season when the Patriots were able to march into Mile High and come out with a late season victory, a lot of the credit was due to Marcus Cannon’s career performance against Miller. Cannon has been ruled out for this Sunday’s game and will be replaced by LaAdrian Waddle. This will be a match up to keep an eye on all night.
Prediction: Patriots 31 Broncos 14
Mike DeVito is a Maine alum and veteran of 9 season in the NFL with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. Mike is a guest host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live on DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.