Monday Night’s matchup between the Broncos and the Patriots could be one of the best, highly touted AFC offensive matchups of the season… or it could be just another meeting of two mediocre teams who can’t get their offense in the end zone or their defense off the field in a short amount of time.
With both teams coming off disappointing losses last weekend (New England’s performance in San Diego last weekend disappointing only because I lost a good amount of money) they are eager to get their act together and start winning, as they should be.
It was the second of two disappointing losses for both teams, with the Broncos getting bested by Kansas City – the worst team in the league, and then Jacksonville.
The Patriots, in almost the same fashion, experienced an embarrassing loss to Miami – the second worst team in the league, and then San Diego. These two teams need to figure out what the hell is going on with their lack-luster offenses.
Denver has the advantage of history going into Monday’s nationally televised game. The Broncs are 5-1 against the Pats since 2001, when New England was about to begin their quest for three Super Bowl championships. According to the Denver Post, the rest of the NFL is 26-102 against the Patriots. No other team has a winning record against the Patriots during that time period.
The Broncos’ offense, one that can be potent and highly charged, is limping along with injuries to its receivers. Third-down man Brandon Stokley is suffering from a concussion and is questionable for Monday’s game. Running back Selvin Young, tight-end Tony Scheffler and the hot rookie receiver Eddie Royal (with cheese) are all questionable for the game as well. No doubt Denver’s offense has been hurt by these injuries – especially to the receivers. Opponents need only to double cover Brandon Marshall and the Denver offense is easily shut down.
For New England’s offense, things aren’t quite as bad… or, maybe they are. Running back LaMont Jordan, who is listed as day-to-day with a leg injury, is expected to play on Monday night. But the offense, the whole New England offense, a.k.a. Tom Brady, has been in sunny southern California recovering from his season-ending knee injury.
Without Brady, as we have all seen, New England’s once great O is basically ineffective. With Matt Cassel behind center they have the AFC East’s lowest-scoring offense with 89 points. Wow. Behind Miami, the Jets and Buffalo? Wow. And if that wasn’t enough, the Patriots will also have to deal with two injuries on their offensive line.
This is the perfect time for Denver coach Mike Shanahan to shake things up on defense, as they have been struggling since game one this year. Since 1995, the Broncos base defense has always been a 4-3 but now, because of its personnel, Denver is going to start mixing in a 3-4 base defense a little more. It’s what all the other good defensive teams are doing and Shanahan is no stranger to it as this was the defense the University of Minnesota and Florida used when he was offensive coordinator at both.
“We ran it in every college I coached at,” Shanahan told the Post. “The pros got it from the colleges. For the longest time, the pros said the 3-4 would never work in the NFL.”
Defensive end Elvis Dumervil agreed.
“The 3-4 has a major role now,” Dumervil said. “We've got a 4-3 and 3-4 personnel. That's pretty much what we have going on right now.”
Now the Broncos have been shifting into this all season and it hasn’t always worked. In last weekend’s loss, they were in the formation at least half the time. But they are dialing it in and once they do, their speedy four linebackers will be more of a force on the field. As it is right now, I think their defensive formation and injuries are only a part of this season’s struggle to be consistent winners. They need to play inspired ball and quit turning the ball over. Simple as that.
Vegas has Monday Night’s line at three points in favor of the Pats. That is simply home field advantage at work in those odds. Looking at Denver’s past with New England, I say Denver is going to come out on top 27-17 as its offense can’t go two weeks in a row playing terribly. And the defense will be too much for the Pats… but it won’t be by much. Cassel, after this game, may be hitting the ol’ pine with yet another loss.