The New England Patriots (6-2) will be back on the field on Sunday night after their bye week to take on the Denver Broncos (3-5) at Mile High Stadium. While the Patriots look to extend their winning streak to five, the Broncos are looking to get back in the win column after losing four-consecutive games.
Their last loss came at the hands of Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday where they were embarrassed 51-23. Denver has been blown out in their last four games by 13, 21, 10 and 28 points and are a much different team than they have been the last few seasons.
While the Pats are dealing with the loss of linebacker Dont’a Hightower for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, head coach Bill Belichick told the media on Wednesday the team will not be activating linebacker Shea McClellin off IR and is likely done for the season.
Even though New England is dealing with injuries of their own, it’s not nearly the controversy Denver is dealing with at their quarterback position. Trevor Siemian has not lived up to the expectations people had of him and 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch has been dealing with shoulder injuries since the preseason.
After completing 50 percent of his passes against the blowout loss to the Eagles, Brock Osweiler was named the Broncos starting quarterback for Week 10. He threw for 208 total yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and a fumble.
The last time Osweiler faced the New England Patriots was in 2016 when he was with the Houston Texans. The Pats won 34-16 in a game where Osweiler yet again had thrown for just one touchdown.
However, Osweiler has defeated Belichick and the Patriots during his first stint with Denver back in 2015 where he beat them in overtime, 30-24. New England was without wide receivers Julian Edelman (much like they will be this year) and Danny Amendola.
The Patriots will also be without receiver Chris Hogan, who is dealing with a shoulder injury, meaning fellow wide receiver Phillip Dorsett could be in line to have himself a big game. He hasn’t done much since Week 2 where he hauled in three catches for 68 total yards and a rush for seven yards.
Dorsett has only caught one pass for 17 yards since then – so if Hogan is indeed out, quarterback Tom Brady will need to target him as he would default to the third wide receiver spot behind Brandin Cooks and Amendola.
Brady may have a new target come Sunday in tight end Martellus Bennett – who was claimed off waivers on Thursday after the Green Bay Packers parted ways with him after Bennett reportedly failed to disclose an injury to the team.
Bennett is listed as questionable for Sunday – but practiced with New England on Friday morning.
The Patriots need to run all over (literally and figuratively) this Denver defense – a defense that is ranked 25 in the league in points allowed with nearly 25 per game and with Hogan out for Sunday’s bout, Brady will need to rely heavily on Amendola, Dorsett and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Over the last four weeks, the Denver D has given up at least 21 points – but the big problem here is that New England has struggled playing in Denver over the years.
Brady’s overall record against the Broncos is 7-9 while the QB’s record in Denver is 3-7. In three playoff games played at Mile High Stadium, Brady is 0-3. His 3-7 overall record is the 40-year-old’s worst winning percentage in any city.
Despite Brady’s less-than-spectacular numbers against the Broncos, there is some good news: Denver’s offense has been an absolute mess while the New England defense is really starting to click.
The defense will need to pressure Osweiler and stop their run game given the Broncos have proven to succeed on the ground.
Brady will need to continue Cooks, who he has developed some deep-ball chemistry with – averaging 17.1 yards per catch. He’ll need to be quick with the ball and figure out the Denver D given they typically play well against New England.
If Bennett does indeed play on Sunday, Brady will utilize the tight end frequently. Brady trusts Bennett and Bennett knows Belichick and his offense – so it would be beneficial for Brady to have a new target down the field.
Final score prediction: New England, 24, Denver, 18