Both the Patriots and Broncos come into this game with huge momentum; the Broncos demolished the lowly Raiders at home, and the Patriots ran up the score late against the Bills on the road. Of course, everyone wants to talk about the big re-uniting between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. By now, you have probably seen the record of both Manning and Brady when facing each other, but I won’t repeat it, since it has absolutely no bearing on how this game will unfold.
Let’s look at the key matchups:
Patriots WR’s Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker vs. Broncos CB’s Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter
Porter was one of the most under-rated signings of this offseason. He is remembered for the big pick-6 of Brett Favre in 2009, but Porter has always been a pretty good corner. If you need evidence, just take a gander at how bad the Saints secondary has been so far this year without him. The most likely scenario is that Champ Bailey draws Wes Welker or both CB’s stay on one side of the field. Bailey still can mirror a receiver like the old days, but he’s lost a step obviously. That makes Welker a perfect assignment, because Welker tends to struggle against tough press coverage, because he can be bumped off his routes semi-frequently.
Patriots RE Chandler Jones vs. Broncos All-Pro LT Ryan Clady
The key for the Patriots to slow down Peyton will be to get a pass-rush going without having to blitz. The Patriots secondary still stinks, as they gave up 350+ yards to Ryan Fitzpatrick and 4 passing TD’s, and thus will need to be able to pressure the QB. Clady must be able to slow down Jones without holding him, as Clady was second in the entire league last year for penalties by an offensive player with 13.
The Patriots vs. themselves
The Patriots lost to the Cardinals because they lost their identity. Belichick started out the season wanting to run the ball a lot more, in order to put less strain on their terrible defense. The control-the-clock philosophy only works if you can do it effectively, and Brady, more so than any quarterback, is a rhythm guy. The more he throws, the better he is. The Pats finally got back to their old style of offense last week vs. the Bills as aired it out and used the pass to set up the run. They ended the game with 40 rushes and 36 passes, but that’s only because of garbage time. The Broncos have a mediocre-at-best run defense, but if the Patriots try to get too cute, they will lose.
Denver: No significant injuries
TE- Rob Gronkowski- Questionable/Probable- Hip
TE- Aaron Hernandez- Questionable- Foot
WR- Julian Edelman- Questionable- Hand
QB- Tom Brady- Questionable- Right Shoulder
Don’t be alarmed at Tom Brady’s name on the injury report, as its likely not serious. Hernandez however, although he practiced Friday, should be limited at best in Sunday’s game. Gronkowski should play.
Start RB Stevan Ridley if Aaron Hernandez starts, sit him if he doesn’t.
Let TE Aaron Hernandez be a game-time decision for you, as the upside is too great if he is able to suit up. The middle of the Broncos secondary is their weak point.
Start TE Rob Gronkowski without hesitation
Start TE Joel “Salad” Dreesen in deep 2 TE leagues
Patriots win 38-31
Written by Josh Kay exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com. For more great fantasy analysis, follow Josh on Twitter @Rays_Nut1292.