Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos

I thought I would start out our divisional previews with a look at the NFL Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots. Sure, they haven't actually WON the Super Bowl yet, but they do have Bill Belichick, and they do have Tom Brady, and, well, quite frankly, that's all they need (that's about time number 67 that I've used that joke on this blog, and, quite frankly, it's not getting old anytime soon). But I'm sick and tired of the lack of respect given to the Patriots, so I've decided to put a stop to that once and for all. From now on I will refer to the Patriots only in glowing terms, using a lot of flowery language (thank God for the thesaurus) and will refer to Brady as Saint Thomas.

As for the Denver Broncos, now there is a team that has, actually, probably been disrepected more than any other team in the NFL this season. I'm actually serious about this one. The Seahawks started gaining some respect as the season went along, but when people talk about the AFC, absolutely no one talks about Denver. It has been Indy, then New England, then Pittsburgh, then Cincy, then San Diego, then Kansas City, then Denver. Now, I admit, I was guilty of disrepecting this team at the beginning of the season, but that ended after I saw them beat San Diego, whomp on New England, and beat Dallas Thanksgiving Day. I don't think people actually think Denver has much of a chance in this game, and I say "For Shame." "For Shame." Mike Shanahan has quietly put together his best coaching job since the Elway years, Jake Plummer has put together his best year as a quarterback, and the Broncos have proven ONCE AGAIN that you don't need to pay an exorbitant amount to have an awesome running game. Plus, their defense plays exceedingly well at home. Remember that when Saint Thomas is lying on his back multiple times during the course of this game.

New England "O" vs. Denver "D"

Best Matchup: Deion Branch (WR) vs. Champ Bailey (CB) - Denver loves to blitz, which leaves their cornerbacks often isolated and forced to play man against the opposition's best wide-outs. When the two teams played earlier in the season Deion Branch actually dropped a couple of key passes due both to terrific coverage and some hard hitting by the secondary. Bailey is finally healthy, and should be ready to blanket Saint Thomas' favorite target. Of course, part of the beauty of the Patriot's is that if one target is taken away, Saint Thomas will just go to the next one, but Branch is extremely important and is their only real downfield threat. My guess is that Bailey wins this matchup handily.

Battle of the Trenches - Much has been written about how Corey Dillon wasn't around when these two teams played earlier in the season. Well, guess what? Corey Dillon hasn't really been around even when he's in the game! Seriously, I have never seen Dillon as tentative and lackluster as this year. He never hits the hole with authority and lacks any real speed to the outside. The Broncos have the #2 rushing defense, and this shouldn't really be close. The Patriots will have to rely on Saint Thomas to win this game, and while that might be enough, it will be difficult. As for pass pressure, it's hard to believe because of the games I have watched, but the Broncos actually don't get that many sacks, finishing, I believe, last in that category. They might not get sacks, but they do get to the quarterback, and Brady (oops, Saint Thomas) will have to get some throws off his back foot to handle the pressure. As in most games, this matchup will go a long ways towards deciding this one.

Patriots Role Player Most Likely to Shine: Ben Watson (TE) - This is the thing about New England. They always have some guy ready to have a 200 yard receiving day then disappear for the rest of the postseason. Ben Watson looks like he is ready to have that kind of day, probably still running after his broken tackle of Jags linebacker Mike Peterson. Jon Lynch might like to hit people hard, but he won't be able to cover Watson, and Denver's linebackers, while speedy, are a tad on the small side, which, again, might allow Watson to break some tackles. Add in the fact that Brady will look to him often as a safe, easy throw in the face of pressure, and Watson might catch at least ten balls over the course of this game, including at least one touchdown. Denver's defense would do well to keep an eye on this gentleman.

Denver "O" vs. New England "D"

Best Matchup: Jake Plummer (QB) vs. Mike Vrabel/Tedy Bruschi (LB) - New England's linebackers are renowned for out-thinking the opposing quarterback and getting some easy interceptions because of it. Jake Plummer is renowned for never thinking and getting some easy interceptions because of it. That could be a problem for the Broncos. Plummer has to stay disciplined throughout this game, using his check-down receiver, not staring down, and not making hasty, rash decisions. The Patriots secondary is vulnerable, but Plummer has to allow himself the time necessary to spot the weaknesses, because you can be sure they will be disguised as all getout. This is probably the single most important matchup in this game, because if Plummer throws a couple of drives away, this game is over.

Running Conundrum: Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell have never experienced the type of pressure they will be under this entire game. This Denver offense is all about running the football, and if they are stopped, this game is over, because Jake will be throwing the ball 40 times. The Denver running schemes are phenomenal at opening holes and working with the running back's strengths, but the New England front 7 are finally all healthy and extremely strong against the run. I would actually advise Denver to run right at Tedy Bruschi who, while a terrific story all year, just isn't as strong and physical as he usually is, and should be vulnerable to getting plowed over a few times. Don't expect the defense to get fooled by misdirection plays and stunts; they are too well-coached and disciplined for that. In the meantime, realize that your running game keeps Saint Thomas off the field, and that is a great thing if you are a Denver fan.

Unknown Player Who Must Step Up: Ashley Lelie (WR) - For some reason the ESPN Fantasy guys love Lelie and would always predict him to get 20 points a week, and then he would predictably turn in a crappy performance every week. This guy has serious skills, and he will receive much less attention then his counterpart, Rod Smith, who will have the entire New England secondary following him around. The deep ball will be open for Lelie multiple times this game, but it remains to be seen if he can step up and make the big play happen for the Broncos. If he can, it will open up multiple levels of the Broncos offense, including the running game and the passing game to Smith, because it will make the Pat's defense respect Lelie. I'm not saying it will happen, but if it does, good things are happening for Denver.

The Crushed Line: All hail Saint Thomas and the Patriots, the Super Bowl Champions of the World! OK, enough of that. Here's what I think. You have the Broncos with home-field, the better running game, a defense that is healthy and fired up to play at home, and a quarterback having a career year, against a team that, quite frankly, played a bit above themselves last week and didn't look like champions. Sure, the Patriots will probably be favored, and Brady and Co. are 11-0 in the playoffs, but that streak has to end sometime. It ends in Denver, to the great pleasure of Nick May. Denver 27, New England 20.

Gavin: I'll throw our loyal reader and Patriot fan Tash a bone here... at the end of the day I'm not going to pick against the Pats until they lose. The run defense is much improved and could hold Mike Anderson/Tatum Bell/Ron Dayne in check enough to force Jake Plummer to be Jake Plummer. New England 30, Denver 20.

posted by colin_hesse @ 12:17 PM  2 comments

2 Comments:

At 3:53 PM, Blogger Tash said...

Patriots will win 35 to 16: Watch # 84 Ben Watson and 87 David Givens. Both will have huge games!

Your ever Optimistic fan.

 
At 11:52 AM, Blogger Tash said...

Thanks...

 

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