SERIES: 40th meeting. Broncos lead 24-15, including a 22-17 Denver win in a first-round AFC playoff game following the 1986 season. The teams have split the last six meetings dating back to 1999. The Patriots are 8-16 all-time in Denver. They lost 10 straight there from 1969 to 1998 but are 2-2 since.
2005 RANKINGS: Patriots: offense 7th (24th rush, 2nd pass); defense 26th (8th rush, 31st pass). Broncos: offense 5th (2nd rush, 18th pass); defense 15th (2nd rush, 29th pass)
PREDICTION: Broncos 27-24
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Patriots attempted to establish their running game against the Broncos' speedy linebackers during the regular season meeting and found themselves in a 28-3 hole. Expect them to feature more of the spread formations that allowed them to stage a comeback that fell just short. The Broncos are thin at cornerback, with CB Domonique Foxworth starting and fellow rookie Darrent Williams the nickel back -- if he can overcome a groin injury. Denver built its big lead in the first meeting courtesy of big plays in the running and passing games. The Patriots have since shored up their run defense, which has in turn greatly protected their injury-depleted secondary. The Broncos desperately want to run the ball significantly and allow QB Jake Plummer to manage the game. New England would love nothing more than to stuff the run and force Plummer to beat them.
FAST FACTS: Patriots: Have an NFL-record 10-game postseason winning streak. ... Are 18-3 (.857) since 2001 when facing a team for a second time in a single season. Broncos: Lead the series 24-15 and won the only previous postseason meeting, 22-17, at home in the 1986 AFC Divisional Playoffs. ... First ever playoff game at INVESCO Field. ... Have won past eight games played on Saturdays.
--With LB Tedy Bruschi (calf) held out of last week's playoff victory over Jacksonville, LBs Chad Brown and Monty Beisel saw significant action. Beisel started in Bruschi's place for the second week in a row and finished with four tackles. Brown played a lot in the second half when the Patriots primarily used their sub packages. He made two tackles and defensed a pass. Bruschi was not listed on this week's injury report.
--FB Patrick Pass enjoyed a career day the last time the Patriots played in Denver, totaling 153 yards from scrimmage. His previous best was 57 yards. Pass rushed 10 times for 64 yards and caught six passes for 89 yards. He had receptions of 39 and 32 yards.
--SS Artrell Hawkins and reserve S Michael Stone each appeared in their first career playoff game last week. Hawkins, who split his first seven NFL seasons between Cincinnati (1998-2003) and Carolina (2004), made his fifth start of the year since joining the Patriots in November. Stone, who signed on in late September, played for Arizona from 2001-04.
--The Jaguars sacked QB Tom Brady four times, all in the first half, in last week's playoff opener. Brady had been sacked only 12 times in his nine previous career playoff games.
--RB Kevin Faulk had the longest postseason catch (21 yards) and second-longest postseason run (19) of his career against the Jaguars.
--TE Dan Graham's father, Tom, was a Broncos linebacker from 1972-74.
--Including his days with the Seahawks (1995-2001), TE Christian Fauria is 2-7 lifetime in Denver.
--CB Darrent Williams should play on Saturday. He has a groin injury but has practiced all week. The Broncos don't know how he'll react in a game situation, however. Denver wasn't testing him too hard during practice early in the week because the Broncos didn't want to set him back.
--G Ben Hamilton has had a very good season. He'll be important on Saturday against New England, getting to the Patriots' talented inside linebackers on Denver's zone running plays.
--LB Al Wilson's biggest asset this year is his mental approach. He's not getting by on physical talent alone. He is seeing the game well and anticipating better than he ever has in his career.
--SS Nick Ferguson will be important in run support against New England. If the Patriots can get their running game going against Denver, it will make Tom Brady even more dangerous.
--WR Ashley Lelie has played a pretty solid all around game in recent weeks. Lelie is a good deep threat but has caught some short passes lately. He would help Denver's offense be more diverse if he can become a complete receiver.
PREGAME MUST READS
Five Questions With The Insiders
We put five questions people have been asking about the division playoff game between the Patriots and the Broncos to insiders who cover both teams. With questions ranging from what new wrinkles will Mike Shanahan roll out vs the Patriots to what will be the one thing that makes the difference in the outcome. Get inside to see what the insiders had to say. More
What They Have To Do To Win
The Denver Broncos have home field advantage. They had an extra week to rest and prepare. They have the experience of having beaten the New England Patriots earlier in the season. So why are many national experts picking the Patriots for the upset? Insiders from both BroncosUpdate and Patriots Insider share three things each team must do to win the game, including keys to an upset. More
Patriots - Broncos: No Longer A One Man Show
The New England Patriots were at their worst the last time they visited Denver. They are at their best now. That's what three months will do for a football team. Formerly one of the most banged up, embattled teams in the league, the Patriots (11-6) enter Saturday night's game against the Broncos (13-3) healthier than they have been all season. More
Q & A with a Broncos Insider
NFL sportswriter Michael John Schon, who covers the Denver Broncos, has graciously agreed to address questions posed by Patriots fans about the upcoming game between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos. Get inside to see what fans want to know. More
Coaches Corner: Notes from Foxboro
The New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had nothing but compliments in store for his press conference about the playoff game against the Denver Broncos on Saturday. Not one to get sucked into a war of words, Belichick threw around descriptions of how tough the Broncos play, how good their coach is, and that it will be a very difficult game to win. Tim Coughlin provides a breakdown of what the coach had to say this week. More
Coaches Corner: Notes from Denver
Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan spoke on a number of items about the New England Patriots in his press conference this week. Some of the topics include the coaching style differences between himself and Belichick, the difference between the Patriots in week 6 vs. now, and where Tom Brady ranks among all-time great quarterbacks. Get inside for Tim Coughlin's summary of what Denver's coach said. More
Spotlight: Vince Wilfork vs Tom Nalen
The New England Patriots vs Denver Broncos playoff game will feature a number of key matchups. One of the most important is Patriots' nose tackle Vince Wilfork Vs Bronco's center Tom Nalen. Here's an inside look at how these two matchup and what their battle means to the game plan. More
Patriots' Win Streak Won't End Here
To beat the Denver Broncos in Saturday's divisional playoff at Invesco Field at Mile High, the New England Patriots need to strike early and contain the Broncos' powerful rushing attack. Easier said than done, but not impossible, and Bill Belichick's team has the talent and the favorable matchups it needs to get the job done and advance to the AFC Championship game next week. More
Patriots Secondary Is Ready For The Challenge
One of the biggest questions remaining for the New England defense heading into Saturday night's divisional battle with the Broncos in Denver revolves around the secondary. Over the last month the Patriots front seven has essentially shut down opposing ground games and put consistent pressure on the quarterback. That's taken pressure off New England's reworked defensive backfield that includes rookie starter Ellis Hobbs at corner and veteran cornerback Artrell Hawkins as the starting strong safety. More
Can Rookie Gold be found in the Playoffs?
The Denver Broncos coaches have called upon their top two rookie cornerbacks to do something that would have most coaches around the league thinking about an early retirement before considering. That is, start two rookies in the dog-eat-dog world of the NFL playoffs. More
Denver Broncos Hot Topics - Fri. Jan 13
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan has repeated one statistic this week in the second half of the season the Patriots allowed 2.9 yards per rushing attempt. That doesn't count a regular-season finale against Miami when the Patriots rested many starters. "That's unprecedented," Shanahan said. More
Pick of the Posts
Well, it's time to talk about the actual game. Here is what I expect to see Saturday night: Coming into this game, here is what we know about the Patriots: Offensively, they are just getting Kevin Faulk back. The wide receivers look to be healthy. Their tight ends are as well. While the team defeated Jacksonville, keep in mind that one score was on a freakish Ben Watson play where the Jags seemed to forget that it is OK to tackle in this league, and the other was a long interception return for a touchdown. More
Denver Broncos Hot Topics - Wed., Jan. 11
Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams sounded much less optimistic Monday about playing in this week's playoff game than he did a week ago. Read about Williams and all the latest personnel news in today's edition of "Hot Topics" about the Broncos. More
Denver Broncos Hot Topics - Monday, Jan. 9
The Broncos were matched in the second round of the AFC playoffs with the New England Patriots, winners of the past two Super Bowls, when Cincinnati lost to Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Broncos beat New England 28-20 on Oct. 16, but the Patriots were without many key players in that game, including running back Corey Dillon, linebacker Tedy Bruschi and defensive lineman Richard Seymour. The Patriots are healthier now, and the Broncos are well aware of how well they are playing. More