On Saturday Night at 8pm, Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos will come to Gillette Stadium for a primetime match-up vs. the New England Patriots in the NFL Divisional Playoffs. These 2 teams faced each other almost a month ago in Denver, with the Patriots coming out on top 41-23. It seems much has changed since that game. The Broncos lost their remaining 2 games and backed into the playoffs by “winning” the AFC West (thanks in large part to Tebow leading the team to a 6 game win streak prior to the Patriots game). The Patriots continued to win, albeit in closer than expected games, and secured the #1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Saturday’s game should be a great game and a true test for the Patriots.
Reasons why the Patriots will lose?
Back in December, the Broncos relied heavily on the running game and passed only as a necessary. Even against a beaten and banged up Patriots secondary that allowed 293 yards per game through the air this year, Tim Tebow only threw for 194 yards. John Elway, the Broncos executive vice president of football operations and Hall of Fame QB, said Tebow needed to “pull the trigger” against the Steelers. Well he obliged. Tebow threw for 316 yards on Sunday afternoon, including an 80 yard TD pass to Demarius Thomas in OT that won the game for the Broncos. Willis McGahee and Tim Tebow also ran for 111 yards vs the vaunted Steelers D, so the Broncos haven’t totally abandoned the run. Look for them to continue to run and setup the play-action pass deep with Thomas down the field.
Also, the Patriots playoff success has been non-existent as of late. After winning 3 Superbowls in 4 years, the Patriots are 0-3 in the last 3 playoff games since the 2007 season, when they eventually lost to the New York Giants in the Superbowl. In 2009 they got shellacked by the Baltimore Ravens at home and last season they got handled by the New York Jets, despite being a #1 seed and having home-field advantage. Tom Brady has been a train wreck in those 2 playoff games with 4 TD and 4 INTS while being sacked 8 times combined. The Broncos like to bring the heat and while they only sacked Brady twice in their previous meeting, it maybe asking too much for an injury plagued offensive line to repeat that performance.
Why will the Patriots win?
Having almost 2 full weeks of rest should be beneficial for the Pats. It allowed for players, specifically defensive, to get healthier (see, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty). Denver should be banged up after facing one of the most physical teams in the NFL, the Pittsburg Steelers. Reports say that starting WR Eric Decker will miss the game.
The Patriots also will enjoy the services on newly re-acquired offense-guru Josh McDaniel’s. McDaniel’s, who was Patriots offensive coordinator in the 2007 record-breaking season, left the Patriots in 2009 to become Head Coach of the Broncos and eventually ended up drafting Tim Tebow. He may know the strengths and weaknesses of Tebow better than anyone (outside of Urban Myers). McDaniel’s will serve an offensive assistant this season; will take over as offensive coordinator next season after current OC Bill O’Brien leaves for Penn State.
Patriots get the monkey off their back and win the game.
Patriots 31 Broncos 17