Q&A with a Broncos Insider
Sportswriter Michael John Schon answers questions for fans
Questions from the fans:
1) I am just curious as to the history between the Broncos and the Patriots and if that may have an impact on this game.
Although the two teams have faced each other a total of thirty-eight times, the Broncos do not necessarily view this match up as a heated rivalry. There's a tremendous amount of respect for Bill Belichick and the Patriots accomplishments over the past several years, and that respect plays out both on and off the field.
History will not have as major an impact as New England's quest for an unprecedented three peat as well as the pressure on Denver to grab its first playoff win since Elway retired.
2) What do you think of Belichick being 15-1 against QB's he's lost to the first time but beat the second time that year?
Undoubtedly Belichick is one of the top if not the top coach in the NFL right now, and teams are hard pressed to find a way to win one, let alone two games against them.
Denver's advantage lies in the fact that they match up very well against the Patriots. Since 2001, the Broncos are the only team in the NFL to have a winning record against New England, holding a 3-1 advantage. Since 2000, there have been eight instances when teams that faced each other once during the regular season played a rematch in the divisional playoffs. In those games, the teams that won the regular-season match ups are a combined 8-0 in the post-season rematch.
Other interesting stats in Denver's favor:
Common opponents: New England 6-3, Denver 7-2.
Points allowed: New England 338, Denver 258.
Sack differential: New England plus-5, Denver plus-5.
Turnover differential: New England minus-6, Denver plus-20.
That being said, stats can be twisted into anyone's favor under the right circumstances. It still boils down to the fact that "in order to be the champs, you have to beat the champs" and the Broncos opportunity comes this weekend.
3) Will the recent improved play of the Pats defense affect Shanahan's offensive game plan in any way?
Simply put no. Shanahan's game plan will revolve strictly around Denver's strengths, not New England's improvements. The Broncos made it to 13-3 with a run first approach, riding on the power of Mike Anderson and the explosiveness of Tatum Bell, and Saturday should be no exception.
4) The Patriots have limited some of the best running attacks in the league with their improved defense. What will the Broncos do if the Patriots are able to slow down their running game?
Unless New England virtually shuts them down the Broncos will continue to pound it out on the ground, mix in the short Plummer roll out passes and try and wear down the Patriot defense in the thin air of Mile High.
Don't be surprised to see Shanahan gamble a bit early to test the secondary, but the ground game will continue as the Broncos plan to control the clock and open up the pass.
5) Can you talk about the matchup between Denver's WRs and the Patriots' defensive backs? How will the latter's lack of size and experience hurt them in containing bigger, faster veterans like Lelie and Smith?
Of all the Broncos receivers Rod Smith has had the most success against the Patriots. In his last four games against New England, the 11-year veteran has collected 30 receptions for 573-yards and one touchdown. I expect Belichick to try double him as much as possible, forcing Plummer to look in Lelie's direction, but make no mistake, Smith is Plummer's go to guy.
Lelie, who definitely has a size advantage at 6'3, has shown he's got the hands to make the big catch, but this is not the same secondary New England brought in Week 6 and he may find himself struggling to get open for the long ball. Look for Jeb Putzier and Stephan Alexander to break things up across the middle on the short pass, while Lelie works to spread the secondary down the sideline.
6) What do you think of the Broncos not winning any playoff games since Elway left?
Look at it this way - since John Elway retired not one NFL team has won a playoff game with Brian Griese or Jake Plummer at the helm. Why should Denver be any different?
7) How do you think Plummer will do under the pressure of playoffs?
After countless hours studying game film over the off season Jake had made tremendous improvements, but ultimately this game will be the measuring stick that defines his role as a starting NFL quarterback.
Based on what I've seen so far this season I think he's matured enough under Shanahan's guidance to understand it's not all on his shoulders and he doesn't need to try and force what isn't there. Unless he takes a major step backwards and reverts to the old run-and-gun Jake he should do fine.
8) Do you have a prediction for this game?
Denver's recent momentum, home field advantage and the luxury of a first round bye should give them just enough to pull this one off.
Patriots - 28
Michael John Schon is a regular contributor to Broncos Update. You can read more of Michael's writing here on BroncosUpdate.com. Fans submitted their questions on the Patriots Insider message boards. See what else fans think about the game, visit the sites for both teams:
Denver Broncos message board: link
New England Patriots message board: link