Broncos insider Michael John Schon and Patriots insider Jon Scott share three keys each team must achieve in order to win.
Three things the Broncos have to do to win
Offense - Denver needs to establish themselves early, controlling the clock as much as possible with a combination of runs and the short roll out passes. If Jake can find his rhythm with Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie the ground game will follow suite, and the Broncos will be able to grab the early momentum.
Defense - Defensively they need to pressure Brady at every opportunity, while also making every effort to contain Kevin Faulk and Deion Branch. Expect the normal Broncos blitz package to start on the opening possession as Denver tries to force Brady into a short passing attack. Although Brady rarely succumbs to high pressure situations, limiting his options out of the backfield is key for any Broncos success.
Turnovers - Denver's defense needs to create turnovers. The Patriots are minus -6 in turnover ratio while the Broncos stand at plus - 20, and this could very well be the main ingredient to success. Force the fumble, force the interception and you can control the tempo.
Three things the Patriots have to do to win
Offense - New England has to get the ball rolling early. They should be able to reestablish the run now that they have both Kevin Faulk and Corey Dillon back, and Dan Graham is expected to play. New England hasn't been the same with all three of those players hurt or missing. Although some say Dillon looks lethargic, he brings an element of grind it out smash mouth football the patriots need if they want to give Tom Brady the threat of play-action passing. If the Patriots can hold of the talented Denver front seven, then the deep ball will return. It has been the key in games when the Patriots jumped out to a lead, and it will be a key here.
Defense - On the other side of the ball, New England absolutely has to stop the Denver running game. Although the Patriots' defense has held opposing runners in check the last month, Denver runs the ball better than most other teams. New England must stop the run and make the Broncos one-dimensional in order to throw off the Denver offensive rhythm. With Mike Shanahan finding new ways to exploit defenses, stopping Denver's running game will be no easy task.
Control the Clock - If New England can get into a type of game that allows them to slow down or speed up the tempo at will, they will have the ability to keep Jake Plummer off the field, and more importantly their questionable secondary. Sustained drives will be key to protecting the Patriots Achilles heel (secondary), and taking the crowd out of the game (assuming the Pats are leading). When New England controls the clock they are 8-0 this season.
Michael John Schon is a regular contributor to Broncos Update. You can read more of Michael's writing here on BroncosUpdate.com. Jon Scott has been covering the NFL for over a decade and is a member of PFWA. He is also the the managing editor of PatriotsInsider.com.
See what other fans think about the game, visit the sites for both teams: