Offensive Matchups to Watch -
MS: WR Brandon Marshall vs. New England's defensive secondary
For the past week Brandon Marshall has been blasted by the media for dropping the rock against Jacksonville, crucial fumble crucial time, his second of the season. Right now he's got something to prove and with the possibility of Tony Scheffler, Brandon Stokley and Eddie Royal all sitting out, Marshall's got the perfect opportunity to showcase under the spotlight of Monday Night Football.
JS: Randy Moss and Wes Welker vs Champ Bailey and Dre Bly
It's been weeks since Randy Moss has been the Randy Moss of old, 2 weeks actually when Moss hauled in a 66-yard touchdown strike against the Ssan Francisco 49ers. Since that pass, Moss has been limited in his contributions; much like the couple of games before the 49ers matchup. The Broncos secondary has given up 255 yards per game through the air, losing games in high scoring shootouts. So far Moss and Welker have been tamed by opposing defense, managing just 624 yards and 2 TDs combined - a little over. Matt Cassel must find a way to get the ball downfield against a supposedly porous defense anchored by Bly and Bailey. The smart move would be to try to get the deep pass to Moss if he's not covered by Bailey all day, while hitting Welker on some slant passes where he can use his speed.
Defensive Matchups to Watch
MS: DE Elvis Dumervil vs. LT Matt Light
The Broncos are desperately looking for some kind of shining light on defense and Dumervil could be that glimmer of hope if he brings his A game against Matt Light. Obviously the Broncos need to pressure Matt Cassel and the biggest key is bringing a strong rush from the corners. Cut the rush shut down the corners and the Broncos may actually have a chance to pull this one off.
JS: Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork vs. Ryan Clady and Ben Hamilton
The trouble with the Patriots defense is as indicative of a poor pass rush as it is a troubled secondary. When the Patriots front three, including Ty Warren and substitute Jarvis Green, were able to get pressure on the quarterback, the secondary had time to defend the pass. For the Patriots to be successful, Seymour and Wilfork need to be more aggressive on the line. One area that the veterans should be able to find success is on the Broncos left side with rookie Ryan Clady and veteran Ben Hamilton. If Seymour and Wilfork can use some of the combination rushing that worked in the past, they should be able to put pressure on Jay Cutler, something New England desperately needs to do to win.
They Will Win If
MS: The Broncos will win if
They control the turnovers, limit the pressure on Jay Cutler and get back to the run and gun style that they opened the season with. Having Ed Hochuli on your side obviously doesn't hurt either. With Denver's current defense, the best option for a win is outscoring the opponent and man for man the Broncos should be able to handle it at least on the offensive side.
MS: The Broncos will lose if
I'm not sure there's enough room in this column to list all the ways Denver's got the potential to lose this one but suffice to say it all falls on the defense. Give up the pass, give up the run and we might as well just call it a night. There isn't an offense in this league that doesn't have the potential to light it up on the Broncos right now, (ie. Kansas City), and if Denver's got any hopes at all of the postseason, things need to turn around quick. The spotlights on this one Monday Night Football is Denver's defense really as bad as they say? I guess well all know Tuesday morning.
JS: The Patriots will win if
They can control the clock and limit the damage Jay Cutler can do through the air. That's a tall task considering, but one that Kansas City managed to pull off. Unfortunately for New England, is their secondary was lit up last week against another top passer from the AFC West in Philip Rivers. If New England lears fast on how ot limit those big plays, and can play keep away like they did against the 49ers two weeks ago, New England has a decent shot to win.
JS: The Patriots will lose if
They play like they did against the Dolphins or the Chargers. It's simple. Make adjustments once the bleeding starts, or the defense will bleed away any chance Matt Cassel and the offense has to muster a decent balanced attack. On the other side, if the Patriots can't get touchdowns inside the red zone (or more importantly on the goal line), they're going to get blown out of the water.
Prediction for the game and why
MS: Broncos 28 Patriots 21
Based on past history and the fact Tom Brady's out doing vitamin water commercials, the Broncos should have this hands down. Then again they should have had KC and Jacksonville handled as well and we all know how that turned out. I think Cutler and the offense should be able to pile it up against the Patriots secondary, but having said that, it won't surprise me to see Cassel to find some success against the Broncos 32nd ranked pass defense. I laying odds on a decent scoring game with the Broncos pulling it off by seven
JS: Broncos 24 - Patriots 27
I find it hard to believe that the Patriots can muster the amount of ponts necessary to defeat the Broncos in what I expect will be a high scoring game, but for some reason I'm giving credit to the Hometown advantage. Mind you when it got ugly against the Dolphins that hometown crowd turned on the team, booed and then walked out with a quarter to go. This isn't the same Patriots team. I expect we'll see some new wrinkles on offense, and it will be up to New England to outpace Cutler's Broncos. They have as good a chance as any to get on track through the air, and I think they will, this week. Pats in a close one late.
Jon Scott covers the New England Patriots for Patriots Insider, a division of Scout.com
Michael John Schon covers the Denver Broncos for Broncos Update, a division of Scout.com