Sunday night marks the beginning of the Brock Osweiler era in Denver. I know it’s not his first career start, but to me, it is the start of a new era because he’s keeping this starting job. Whether Peyton Manning is so hurt that he cannot go or if his ineffectiveness has finally worn Gary Kubiak’s patience thin, he’s not in a game at home against the Patriots in November. I think that matters. I think that signifies that his time is officially over.
As for the game itself, this shapes up to be New England’s toughest test to date. I don’t think that because of Denver’s talent necessarily, but mainly because the Patriots barely have any receivers left. Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson both won’t be playing (smooth prediction Tyler, Dobson really made a big difference), and Julian Edelman has been on the shelf due to his foot. That leaves Brandon LaFell as the only bona fide NFL receiver the Pats have at their disposal this weekend. I think LaFell is good, but as a number one target? He’s going to need to step up to the plate big time, and going against Denver’s defense in their house is a tall task. Gronk can’t play like he did- last week, he was more or less invisible. I get that Buffalo zeroed in on him, but he just wasn’t catching passes that hit him square in the hands. The O-line can’t let TB12 get hit 10+ times again, it just can’t happen. And quite frankly, Brady hasn’t looked as automatic as usual the past two weeks. With a short supply of playmakers on offense, they have to be nearly perfect. Turnovers are never a good thing, but realistically I don’t think they’re in a position where they can afford any turnovers.
Injury or not, Peyton Manning out of the picture is the best thing that possibly could’ve happened to this offense. Osweiler took home AFC Offensive Player Of The Week honors last week, after having a very solid debut. The Broncos can finally throw sideline to sideline, which was a luxury they didn’t have with #18 calling the shots. Malcolm Butler’s matchup with Demariyus Thomas doesn’t really intimidate me as a fan. I think he’s come on and done well, especially the last two weeks on OBJ and Sammy Watkins, respectively. What scares me is that there’s no one to match up on Emmanuel Sanders. I’ve been a fan of his since his days in Pittsburgh; he’s not exceptional in really anything but his speed, but he always seems to make a big catch at an opportune time. He’s a guy I’d want on the Patriots. And I don’t know if New England has anyone to cover him. Logan Ryan leads the team in interceptions, but let’s not sit here and pretend he’s anything more than average, if that. This is coming, by the way, from a huge Ryan supporter, someone who thought that if he reaches his ceiling, #26 could be an excellent corner in the NFL. He just gets beat consistently. It doesn’t help that Jamie Collins is STILL sick after a month of no football. Don’t get me wrong, Jonathan Freeny has played well in his absence, but he’s no Jamie Collins.
I think to win the game the Patriots can’t waste drives. Denver’s defense drives their team so the offense doesn’t have to score too many points. So to counter that, they just have to stay on the field for as long as possible. That means trying to mix LeGarrette Blount in with lots of carries. That means no turnovers. I literally don’t want to see Ryan Allen on the field to punt more than like 3 times. The Patriots should just take their sweet time putting points on the board.