Catching up with … the Broncos
|07.25.13 at 4:22 pm ET|
As we count down to the start of training camp, we’ll take a look at all 13 opponents on the Patriots’ regular-season schedule and break down each one of them. We’ve already featured the Bills, Jets and Dolphins, as well as the Buccaneers, Falcons, Bengals, Saints, Steelers and Panthers. Now, it’s the Broncos.
Specifics: The Patriots will play their second prime-time game in a row when they host the Broncos at 8:30 p.m. on Nov. 24, the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Say goodbye to … running back Willis McGahee, defensive end Elvis Dumervil, defensive back Tracy Porter, linebacker D.J. Williams, wide receiver Matt Willis, running back Chris Gronkowski, defensive back Jim Leonhard.
Welcome … wide receiver Wes Welker, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, linebacker Shaun Phillips, defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, running back Montee Ball, defensive back Quentin Jammer, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, defensive tackle Louis Vasquez.
Recent history: The Patriots are 3-0 against Denver, including the 45-10 romp in the divisional-round playoff game in January 2012, since the Broncos last came out on top in 2009. Most recently, the Patriots beat the Broncos, 31-21, last October in the teams’ only meeting since Peyton Manning moved to Denver. They withstood a three-touchdown, 337-yard barrage from Manning with third-quarter rushing scores from Tom Brady and Steven Ridley.
The Patriots should be worried because … Manning and Welker are on the same team. Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker had a combined 2,498 receiving yards last season, Manning’s first in the Mile High City, and with the addition of Welker — not to mention Welker’s subtraction from the Patriots — Denver boasts quote the triple threat. Fresh off neck surgery, Manning proved any doubters wrong with a 68.6 completion percentage (tied for first in the NFL), 37 touchdowns (third) and 291 yards per game (sixth). Even at 37, Manning isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
The Patriots shouldn’t be worried because … the Broncos have their fair share of question marks all over the depth chart. They released Willis McGahee last month, leaving second-year running back Ronnie Hillman and 2013 second-round draft pick Montee Ball as the top options out of an already shallow backfield.
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos will have to replace Dumervil, a three-time Pro Bowler who signed with the Ravens. Linebacker Von Miller, who posted a gaudy 18.5 sacks last season but is facing a four-game suspension to start 2013, should be in midseason form by then, but questions remain, as training camp opens, at safety and on the offensive line.
The skinny: Brady-Manning is always fun, right? This November matchup should be no exception, particularly with the added storylines of Welker joining Manning, and Tebow potentially playing against the team that drafted him — assuming he’s still with the Patriots by then. The Patriots will be faced with the challenge of a shortened week, taking on the Panthers on Monday Night Football the week prior, in what is arguably their biggest and most difficult non-division game of the season. The Broncos may have the edge on paper right now, especially given the drastic differences in the quarterbacks’ respective receiving options, but a lot will happen in the next four months.
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