Broncos at Patriots: Countdown to Kickoff

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Entering tonight’s key AFC match-up between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, we all know what the prevailing narrative is: Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady.

Some of these talking points are interesting: it really is rare that you get to see two of the greatest of all time play each other so frequently. Even with Brady on the right side of more of the showdowns than Manning, both have seen meaningful success over the life of the rivalry. When these guys are both out of football, it won’t take us much time to think back and appreciate how cool it was that they played against each other so many times.

This game, however, will come down to more than those legendary quarterbacks. Here are some key points.

Julius Thomas is out of the game

When you play against a Bill Belichick defense, it’s all about the match-ups. Or the mis-match-ups. Belichick is famous for picking one of your tough match-ups and taking it away. Of all the players on the loaded Denver offense, the two biggest match-up problems for opposing defenses are Thomas and Wes Welker. If Thomas had played, Belichick might have been forced to make a decision. Now you can expect some targeted efforts to take Welker out of the game.

Looking for a key player? Monte Ball might be your guy

Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo are both out for the Patriots. Aqib Talib will play in the secondary. It will be freezing cold. Running the ball will be a big part of a winning formula for the Broncos. Knowshon Moreno deserves a ton of credit for the season he is having and for being a reliable workhorse for the Broncos. But there’s a reason that Denver has been adding to Ball’s workload lately. He is still the better pure runner, and he needs to get 15 carries (or more) in tonight’s game.

Look for more Shaun Phillips in your life

Von Miller‘s impact on this defense is without question. The defense is pressuring the quarterback and giving their secondary a chance to make some plays. As teams dedicate extra attention to neutralizing Miller, Phillips is going to have opportunities to make plays. That happened last week when he logged seven tackles and 1.5 sacks. As always, the Broncos will need their defense to make just enough plays. Look for Phillips to be in the mix.

Broncos at Patriots. 6:30 P.M. CST. As of today, these two are the top seeds in the AFC. Another Brady vs. Manning showdown that seriously matters. Hopefully the other key players on the Broncos can come through and get their QB a much-hyped victory.

Topics: Denver Broncos

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