Behind Enemy Lines: Patriots-Broncos Part II

NFL experts, Jon Scott of PatriotsInsider.com and Michael Schon of BroncosUpdate.com, analyze Monday's game between the Patriots and the Broncos. Part 2 includes the dynamic passing attack of Denver, the injury report, Cutler's rise among the elite QBs and more...

Q: The Broncos have had some highs and lows this year, beating the Chargers and New Orleans in a shootout. Recently they've had trouble putting up points, even losing to the lowly chiefs. What's the biggest reason for the inconsistency?

Michael Schon: Denver’s defense is abysmal, plain and simple. Right now they’re a one-dimensional team that allows an easy focus on Cutler and his receivers. The running game hasn’t been strong enough to split the coverage so they’re an easy mark for even a halfway decent defensive team. As far as the Chiefs – you’re guess is as good as mine, but Denver’s “D” has caused more problems offensively than anyone here cares to imagine.

Q: The Broncos offense is averaging nearly 400 yards per game (4th best overall). What's the key to the offense, and does that key matchup well against the Patriots defense?

Rookie WR Eddie Royal has been a pleasent surprise for Denver catching 31 passes for 321 yards and 2 TDs (Getty)

Schon: Shanahan is one of the best offensive minded coaches in the business and everything’s geared toward Cutler’s strengths. With Marshall, Tony Sheffler, Brandon Stokley and Eddie Royal as targets, this is the best post-Elway offense in the Shanahan era. The line is pretty young, but they’ve done a great job in protection, and that’s been vital in Denver’s success. The matchup’s going to be great – two brilliant coaches looking to exploit each others glaring weaknesses, you couldn’t ask for anything better.

Q: Denver had 16 players on the injury report this week. Which of those injuries are legitimate concerns, and how will it affect what the Broncos can do Monday if they can't play.

Schon: The Broncos injury reports are kind of a joke sometimes… everybody’s a little banged up but the only legitimate concerns are Tony Scheffler and Eddie Royal, two of Cutler’s favorite targets. Chances are Brandon Stokley will sit out after last week’s concussion and being down three top receivers would defiantly be less than pleasant.

Q: There are some new faces on defense this year to go along with the veterans. Although he's still there and has been a nemesis for New England, Champ Bailey doesn't seem to be having the kind of impact he's used to. What are the reasons the Broncos have yielded nearly 400 yards per game (30th in the league), and is Bailey part of the problem or the solution?

DB Champ Bailey is having a quiet season with 26 tackles, 2 passes defended and 1 INT (Getty)

Schon: It really isn’t Bailey as much as it’s been the system. The defensive line’s got more gaps than Michael Strahan’s teeth, and the secondary’s been pretty much responsible for run and pass coverage. Playing lame zone coverage without any quarterback pressure opens up a whole new world for an offensive minded team (ie New England), and it doesn’t take a Brett Favre to figure out how to pile up the real estate. Right now the Broncos “D” is dishing out nearly 7-yards per play and if you look at the fact that David Garrard and the Jaguars lit it up for 416-yards, you know the Broncos have got some problems. Honestly I wouldn’t rule out Cassell putting up career numbers and even getting a car commercial if Denver doesn’t find a way to pull it together.

Q: Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal have had some big games. How have teams defended those two in the past few weeks compared to early on in the season when they had their biggest games?

Schon: Both Marshall and Royal are drawing double coverage, but Cutler’s got an arm like a rocket so he’ll spread it out a bit more. They both put up better number early in the season, but right now Royal’s got a jacked up ankle and Marshall kind of suffering from fumbleitis, so the direction has shifted a bit to Denver’s other receivers. Something tells me that Marshall and former Bronco Deltha O’Neil will be getting well acquainted with each other before the night’s over.

Q: Is Jay Cutler one of the best QBs in the league yet (top 5)? How would you rank the top 5?

Schon: Without a doubt this kid is going to be huge – great arm, great reads and he’s quickly turning into a strong team leader. You wouldn’t believe how many Elwayesque throws we’ve seen so far this season, so I’m defiantly tossing him in the top five currently playing. As far as the other four I would have to go with Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, Tony Romo and Peyton Manning, even though he’s playing behind a train wreck.

Michael John Schon covers the Denver Broncos for Broncos Update, a division of Scout.com

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