Week 5: Denver Broncos At New England Patriots
- QuarterbackThe Broncos exploded in the second half and blew out the Raiders for their first truly comfortable victory of the season. Peyton Manning was on top of his game, completing 30-of-38 passes for 338 yards with three TDs and no interceptions. There are still issues with Manning’s timing and grip strength, but he answered a lot of questions in the 37-6 triumph.Tom Brady was not off to his best start in the first three games and the Pats were trailing the Bills 21-7. However, there was not panic with Brady under center. Brady and the Pats scored 45 points in the second half and blew out the Bills. Brady threw for 340 yards and three TDs.
- OffenseThe Broncos like to have some balance in their attack and hard-running Willis McGahee will try to pierce the Patriots front seven. Manning should be able to open up the attack because the New England secondary is vulnerable. Demaryius Thomas should be able to make several big plays.The Pats are trying to have a more balanced offense this season and they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams as Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley both rushed for more than 100 yards. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is the team’s best down-the-field threat and Wes Welker is once again a key part of the game plan.
- DefenseThe Broncos are going to try to put pressure on Brady without blitzing because the Patriots’ quarterback recognizes that maneuver so easily and knows how to exploit it. Linebacker Keith Brooking has excellent awareness and will not miss tackles, while defensive end Elvis Dumervil has the speed to cause problems in the pass rush.The Patriots are committed to stopping the run this year. Big Vince Wilfork is tough to move out of the middle and can also collapse the pocket. The Patriots can’t stay with fast receivers. Their only hope is putting pressure on Manning and rushing his delivery. That has not often been successful in the past.
- Special TeamsThe Broncos did not need Matt Prater to make an important kick against the Raiders, but he made 3-of-3 FG attempts, including a 53-yarder. Jim Leonhard is a sure-handed punt returner but he is not likely to return a long one.The Pats have been happy with Stephen Gostkowski through the years, but he missed a game-winning FG attempt vs. Arizona in Week Two and Bill Belichick is hoping that’s not a trend. Reliable Zoltan Mesko placed 3-of-3 punts inside the 20 against the Bills.
This is a key game for both teams as well as those who love nostalgia. Any time you get a Manning-Brady matchup, you are bound to have one of the most exciting games of the season. While there’s no question that Brady is on top of his game, Manning must show that he can string great performances together. This will be a big test for him.