Inside the Matchup: Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots, Week 15

With the 11-2 Patriots headed to Mile High to take on the 8-5 Broncos, we go deep inside the matchup. Statistical comparisons, head-to-head matchups, what to watch for and more.

The New England Patriots might be the best team in the NFL today, but the same was said of them heading into Week 12 last year. They were undefeated and the Denver Broncos were set to start a young, inexperienced quarterback. 

The Broncos came out on top. In fact, not only do the Broncos have a 30-21 all-time record vs. the Patriots, they've won three of their last four meetings. It's no secret that winning at Mile High has been the thorn in the side of Bill Belichick

Tom Brady, for all his quarterbacking prowess, has a losing record against just one team. Against the Broncos, Brady is 6-9 all-time, including playoffs. The reality is the Broncos match up well with the Patriots. They did last year, and they do again this year. 

National pundits expecting this to be a game won handily by the Patriots are likely to be disappointed once again. Talking with Broncos All-Pro linebacker Von Miller earlier this week, he categorized Week 15's throwdown with New England as "the biggest game of the year". 

The Broncos are geeked up for this one. And if they win, it could provide them the momentum needed to knock off the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 16 and the Oakland Raiders in Week 17, which would guarantee the Broncos a playoff spot. 

The Broncos are the first team since 1978 to play their final three games against teams who all started 10-3 or better. It's a gauntlet, but a win against Denver's biggest Conference rival could propel them and give them the spark they need to win all remaining games. 

Let's get to the head-to-head statistical comparisons. 

Offense Broncos Patriots
Net Yards Per Game (NFL Rank) 328.1 (25th) 395.8 (4th)
Yards Per Play (NFL Rank 5.1 (26th) 6.1 (4th)
Points Per Game (NFL Rank) 22.8 (16th) 26.8 (5th)
Possession Average 28:46 30:45
Net Rushing Yards Per Game 93.8 (27th) 115.5 (7th)
Net Passing Yards Per Game 234.2 (19th) 280.3 (4th)
Had Intercepted/Yards 8/93 2/16
Sacks Allowed/Yards 36/198 21/128
Fumbles/Lost 18/10 23/9
Third Down Pct. (NFL Rank) 36.2% (25th) 45.0% (5th)
Red Zone TD Pct. (NFL Rank) 46.3% (T-27th) 62.5% (7th)
Giveaways 18 11

Analysis: With Tom Brady at the helm, playing in the same system he's been in for most of his career, the Patriots clearly have the edge offensively. They're top-10 in every major category and have only turned the ball over 11 times.

The Broncos, meanwhile, are in the bottom third of almost every category. To come out on top, Trevor Siemian needs to have his most efficient game of the year, and Justin Forsett needs to be productive on the ground. 

Defense Broncos Patriots
Net Yards Per Game (NFL Rank) 310.7 (3rd) 338.1 (9th)
Yards Per Play (NFL Rank) 4.6 (1st) 5.3 (11th)
Points Per Game (NFL Rank) 18.6 (6th) 17.7 (2nd)
Net Rushing Yards Per Game 127.2 (29th) 90.2 (6th)
Net Passing Yards Per Game 183.5 (1st) 247.8 (15th)
Intercepted By/Yards 12/284 8/42
Sacks For/Yards 38/210 28/188
Opponent Fumbles/Lost 15/11 20/6
Third Down Pct. (NFL Rank) 36.7% (5th) 38.6% (13th)
Red Zone TD Pct. (NFL Rank) 51.4% (10th)  57.9% (21st)
Takeaways 23 14
Turnover Margin (NFL Rank) +5 (8th) +5 (8th)

Analysis: Belichick-coached defenses are always formidable, excelling at taking away the opponent's key players and exploiting weaknesses. The Patriots aren't as talented across the board as they were last time the Broncos faced them. But as you can see, they're still ranked in the top-10 in total yards and No. 2 in points allowed.

However, they're middle-of-the-road against the pass, which could give the Broncos offense the opportunity to exploit them, if Gary Kubiak is in the mood to step on their throat. The Patriots are stingy against the run, but it's a misleading stat, in that opposing teams are often playing from behind, having abandoned the run to catch up. 

Special Teams Broncos Patriots
Punts-Average Yards (Gross) 45.6 44.3
Punts-Average Yards (Net) 41.2 41.1
Punt Returns-Average Per 8.7 7.2
Punt Returns-Average Per Allowed 6.8 5.1
Kickoff Returns-Average Per 22.5 18.9
Kickoff Returns-Average Per Allowed 20.3 19.4
Field Goals Made/Attempted 26/30 20/24

Analysis: The two teams are pretty close on special teams. Always remember, though. In true Belichickian fashion, he rosters a left footed punter (Ryan Allen), to put a different spin on the ball. It can throw off returners, who are used to the ball moving a certain way off a right foot. Any advantage Belichick can get from a scheming perspective, he will try. 

Penalties Broncos Patriots
Penalties Against/Yards 100/823 79/705
Opponent Penalties Against/Yards 85/770 93/731

Analysis: As you can see, the Patriots have been the more disciplined team. Moving forward, the Broncos have to stop shooting themselves in the foot with negative plays. Whether it's turnovers or penalties, the Broncos have a penchant for self-inflicted wounds that kill momentum. The Patriots have also been better at getting their opponents to slip up, drawing eight more penalties than the Broncos. 

Quick Hits

• Denver has won an NFL-best 29 consecutive games when winning the turnover battle.

• The Broncos have scored a league-high 103 points off turnovers (34.8% of their overall point total).

• Since Executive V.P. of Football Operations/GM John Elway was hired in 2011, the Broncos rank second in the league in total wins (72) and are tied for the most playoff berths (5), division titles (5), Super Bowl appearances (2) and World Championships (1) during that span.

• Elway's 71 total wins in his first 100 games as an executive (2011-Wk. 10, 2016) are the most by any NFL team's general manager through his first 100 overall games.

• In his 32 years in the NFL, including his nine years as a player, Gary Kubiak has been a part of the second-most total wins (318) among active NFL head coaches.

What To Watch For

• Kicker Brandon McManus needs one point to reach 300 for his career and become the 12th player (sixth fastest) to score 300 points for the Broncos. 

• OLB Von Miller needs 1.5 sacks to tie Barney Chavous (75) for third place on the team's all-time list.

• WR Emmanuel Sanders needs 42 receiving yards to become the fifth player in Broncos history with three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

• WR Demaryius Thomas needs 75 receiving yards to become the only NFL player with 1,000 yards receiving in each of the last five seasons.

• OLB DeMarcus Ware needs one sack to tie Jason Taylor (139.5) for seventh place on the NFL's all-time sack list.

The Savvy Of Siemian

• Trevor Siemian's three 300-yard passing games in 2016 are the second most by a Broncos quarterback in his first season starting for the team.

• In Week 12, Siemian joined Peyton Manning (4x) and John Elway (1x) as the only players in team history to throw for 350 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

• Siemian became the sixth quarterback drafted by Denver to earn a win in his first NFL start.

Choice Nuggs

• Demaryius Thomas owns the most receptions (53) and receiving touchdowns (6) in Broncos postseason history while ranking second in team playoff annals with 759 receiving yards.

• Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have each topped 100 receiving yards in the same game seven times since 2014 to lead all NFL receiving duos during that span. • Thomas and Sanders rank fourth and seventh, respectively, in the NFL in receiving first downs during the last three seasons.

• The Broncos have totaled 10 total defensive touchdowns (7 INT; 3 FUM) since the start of the 2015 season (including playoffs) to rank second in the NFL during that span.

• The Broncos are 9-0 when scoring a defensive touchdown during the last two seasons

• Wade Phillips' defense ranks second in the NFL with 38 sacks and lead the league with 100 quarterback hits through 14 weeks in 2016.

• Broncos outside linebackers Von Miller (13.5) and Shane Ray (6.0) have combined for 19.5 sacks to represent the NFL's most prolific pass rushing duo through Week 14.

• Denver has given up 48 points during their opponents' 13 initial drives this season (3.7 points/drive) to contribute to the team's -47 scoring differential (70-23) in the first quarter.

• Denver's defense has regularly put the clamps down its opponents thereafter, allowing just 175 points on its opponents' other 144 possessions (1.2 points/drive).

Miller Eatin' Greedy

• Von Miller recorded 2.5 sacks each in Denver’s AFC Championship Game against New England and Super Bowl 50 against Carolina to set a franchise single-game playoff record.

• Miller’s five total sacks tie for the fourth most in the NFL in a single postseason since sacks became an official statistic beginning in 1982.

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• Miller (72.5 total sacks in first 83 games) tied for the fourth-fastest player in NFL history to compile 70 quarterback takedowns.

• Miller is tied for first in the NFL with 13.5 sacks through 14 weeks this season.

• Miller and Ring of Fame linebacker Simon Fletcher are the only players in franchise history with five 10-sack seasons.

• Miller is also one of just six players in NFL history (since 1982) to record 10 sacks in at least five of their first six seasons.

• Miller is tied for the NFL lead with 72 total pressures (14 sacks, 8 hits and 50 hurries) according to Pro Football Focus

• Miller is tied for fourth in the NFL with 18 forced fumbles since he entered the league in 2011.

• Miller and DeMarcus Ware each rank in the Top 8 in NFL history (since 1982) in sacks per game among players who have appeared in 50 or more contests.

No Fly Zone

• Safety T.J. Ward is tied for fourth among NFL defensive backs with 20 tackles for a loss since 2013—a total that includes 6.5 quarterback sacks and 13.5 run stuffs.

• Ward has had a hand in five takeaways this season to tie for the second most among NFL safeties through Week 14.

• Ward currently leads the Broncos with 81 tackles (66 solo) and is on pace to join Ring of Famer Steve Atwater ('93, '95) as the only true safeties to lead the team in defensive stops.

• Signed by the Broncos as a college free agent in 2011, cornerback Chris Harris, Jr. is one of just five undrafted cornerbacks in pro football history to make multiple Pro Bowls with his original team.

• Cornerback Aqib Talib is one of four NFL cornerbacks to make the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons.

• Talib has posted the most interceptions (33) by a cornerback in the league since he entered the NFL in 2008.

• Talib’s nine interceptions returned for a touchdown are tied for the fourth most in NFL history.

Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.

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