Behind Enemy Lines: Patriots - Broncos I

Scout.com insiders Michael Schon and Jon Scott answer questions about the Patriots - Broncos game. In Part 1, Schon talks about the Cutler trade, Mike Nolan's defense, the former Patriots and much more...

1) With all the changes in the offseason what were the expectations for this team headed into the season?

Michael J. Schon: Depending on who you talked to – expectations were almost non-existent. On the top end most people around the league had six to seven wins at best, some even topped out at four. Now when you look at the schedule, based on the improvements they’ve made defensively and the fact that Brandon Marshall seems to be out of the doghouse, you have to at least give them a shot at the postseason. They’re kind of like that blind date you swore was going to be a bust until you saw her in action.

2) When Jay Cutler was traded, what did fans think?

Schon: Once Cutler started whining to the media about feeling disrespected and failed to return calls to owner Pat Bowlen (allegedly), you pretty much knew his days here were numbered, so when the actual trade came down it wasn’t a real shock. You basically had a 50/50 split between those glad to see him go, and those who were ready to pack the season in as a total loss without him. Fortunately, starting off 4-0 goes a long way in quieting down the masses.

3) Refresh the fans memory, what exactly did the Broncos get for trading Jay Cutler and how have those players /picks worked out?

Schon: Initially the Broncos picked up Kyle Orton and first round picks in 2009 and 2010 as well as well as a third round pick in 2009 (84th overall). The 2010 pick was subsequently traded to Seattle on Draft Day to acquire rookie cornerback Alphonso Smith from Wake Forrest. They used their third round pick in a swap with the Steelers to pick up TE Richard Quinn from North Carolina and G Seth Olsen out of Iowa. In other words – they got several guys with potential in exchange for a gun slinging, disgruntled franchise quarterback with a really lousy haircut.

4) Brandon Marshall had some issues with the team. Where does that situation stand now?

Schon: Time may heal all wounds, but winning does it quicker – right now Brandon is everybody’s best friend, including McDaniels, who he interrupted during last weeks post game press conference to share a giant player/coach man hug for everybody and their brother to see. Rest assured, as long as he keeps performing, he’ll get his new deal and it’ll all be water under the bridge once the checks start rolling in.

5) How has the addition of DC Mike Nolan affected the team's defense?

Schon: The Broncos never really made that huge off-season defensive pickup most people expected and decided to roll with the players they had. As it turns out it may have been the best decision the new regime has made this year - Nolan has got these guys fired up and playing some of the best defense this town has seen in years. New scheme, new coordinator and the Broncos are sitting pretty as the second best defensive team in the league. We’re all pretty much in shock…

6) How are the former Patriots doing?

Schon: So far it’s been great – Jabbar Gafney’s been a stud – second on the club in receptions (11) and third in receiving yards (154). LS Lonnie Paxton’s done a good job, although I still can’t fathom busting out a million bucks on a long snapper and LaMont Jordan’s still hanging on the roster and will probably see some time on Sunday behind Knowshon Moreno. Chad Jackson is the only one that didn’t really make the cut and was released to make room for Marshall when he came off suspension.

7) Did you expect the Broncos to be competitive with teams like the Cowboys before the season and what has been the difference?

Schon: Anybody that tells you they expected this is lying – there isn’t a single person on the face of this planet that thought Denver could hang with the likes of Dallas, New York, Pittsburgh or New England at the start of the season. Now the mindset has shifted and you’ve got the Pats coming in as three point favorites over a team left for dead a month ago. With that said, I completely expected it…

8) Can Kyle Orton lead the Broncos to the playoffs?

Schon: Right now I’ve got no reason to believe he won’t – He’s cut down on the mistakes, has zero interceptions and if you take a quick peek at the NFL stats – he’s the 14th best quarterback in the league, which is exactly one step above Jay Cutler through the first four games. If you base it on the NFL’s QB rating system he’s in the top ten – right behind a guy named Roethlisberger, who I understand is pretty good. Orton may not be the flashiest guy in the league, but he seems to be getting the job done and at this stage, that’s all you can ask.

9) Champ Bailey has had a lot of success against New England. It looked like he was picked on by Dallas. What kind of role do you see him filling this week?

Schon: I’m secretly hoping Brady does try to pick on him – Thirty-one years old and still playing at a level good enough to pull down AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after racking up eight solo tackles, one interception (3 yds.) and a game-high four pass breakups last week against Dallas. Please, please, please Tom – send it Champ’s way.

10) What is the team's biggest strength/weakness?

Schon: Right now, the biggest strength has got to be the defense. Brian Dawkins is a freak and playing like he’s ten-years younger, Bailey is shutting down everything sent his way and Elvis Dumervil is racking up quarterbacks faster than Jessica Simpson. Biggest weakness would have to be special teams where they’ve managed to pile up a measly 19.6-yard average on kick returns and only 7.8-yards on punt returns.

 

KEYS THE GAME
What are the Three keys for the Patriots to defeat the Broncos?

Key to a Patriots win is definitely controlling the clock and Belichick has got this mastered. Pound it out on the ground, control the line of scrimmage and give Brady the time to do what he does best – wear down the best defenses in the league.

Final Prediction:
After what I’ve seen I’ve got to roll with Denver by three – 21-17..

Be sure to look for Part 2 where a Patriots insider Jon Scott answers questions on the Patriots..


Michael John Schon is a nationally syndicated columnist and covers the Denver Broncos for Broncos Update on Scout.com
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