The basic skinny on how I see today’s match-up unfolding:
1) Brady vs. Manning
Of course, this is all the ‘everyfan’ is being forced fed by the major media outlets. My short take on this is that with the weather conditions that are supposed to be present at Gillette stadium today the match-up tilts solidly in Brady’s favor. Brady has consistently shown that he can throw a ball ‘through’ the wind. The reasons for this are that he generally throws a very tight spiral, and still possesses plenty of arm strength. Manning’s arm strength has declined, and he throws ducks. Wonderfully accurate ducks to be certain, but ducks none-the-less and that will be a factor because of the vastly improved back-end of the Patriots defense.
No one is ever going to call John Fox a genius. He’s solid and well liked to be sure but it’s going to take more than that to beat New England up in Foxboro in bad weather. It’s going to take some surprises and new wrinkles. If Manning were the head coach, it might be a fair fight but he’s only the OC, not the HC. Last year Jack DelRio showed no ability to adjust to the weather and the momentum created by the Pats in the 3rd Q of last years regular season game. I don’t expect any genius maneuvers today. Conversely, Belicheck will be prepared AND he’ll have his troops ready for anything and ready to play hard.
Edge: New England
3) Emmanuel Sanders vs. Whomever BB decides to cover him with
I can envision Revis on Demarious Thomas, and Browner on Julius Thomas. Welker is dangerous, but not what he once was and can be covered by Dennard, Jamie Collins, Kyle Arrington or Logan Ryan. The Patriots have no one who can single cover Sanders other than Revis and he’ll be occupied. If the Pats had a heathly Chandler Jones this wouldn’t be such a huge deal but with the time Manning is likely to have, I can see Sanders getting an awful lot of short passes and using his quickness to make big plays on a slick playing surface.
New England will likely be pounding sand if they try and run it at the Broncos tough front 7. They are going to have to catch them off guard by using their warp speed hurry up in order to have successful runs but I don’t believe they can just line up and run it at them. Denver’s Hillman has home run speed and has shown the ability to break tackles after first contact and I can see them being able to line up and run it at us. Vince Wilfork is the X factor. He’s played like a shell of his former self since coming back from injury and he absolutely needs to be great today for the Pats to have a chance on D.
See Brady vs. Manning above.
Edge: Pats in inclement weather.
Huge apparent advantage to New England. Denver has a rookie kicker who’s never had a pressure kick in his pro career. The Pats Ghostkowski is about as good as it gets. Pats are not spectacular in the Kick return game, but can break big ones off in the punt return game. Denver is much the same, maybe a little better on KO returns than New England. With the way the wind is projected, punters also loom as potentially huge contributors to the success/failure of their teams. Both are solid with a slight edge going to Colquitt.
Edge: Slightly favoring New England
While snow is falling like it’s a blizzard, it is supposed to dry up but wind is still supposed to be a factor. I just can’t see New England losing a weather game that’s this important. Anywehre else, I’m taking Denver but today is New England’s day:
New England Patriots: 34
Denver Broncos: 23