By Danny Cox
After winning the Super Bowl last year, the Denver Broncos saw major roster changes that included losing their top two quarterbacks. Additionally, midway through this season, they lost running back C.J. Anderson due to an injury—a loss that’s essentially taken everything out of their rushing attack. Now, Denver’s defense is really all that’s keeping the team alive, but the Broncos will need to bring more than just good “D” against the New England Patriots if they want to win this Sunday in the Mile High City.
Denver Broncos Season Record: 8-5
Things started off really well for the Broncos after winning their first three games behind quarterback Trevor Siemian. Then, the 2016 season quickly turned into one of ups and downs. Denver lost two games and then won two games. Then, they lost to the Oakland Raiders, defeated the New Orleans Saints in dramatic fashion, and have since lost one, won one, and lost one. It’s been really hard to tell which Broncos team will show up week-to-week, but it’s obvious who they are and what problems they face.
Broncos On Offense
Ever since the loss of C.J. Anderson in late October, the Broncos have become entirely one dimensional and have virtually nothing going for them on offense except the passing game. They have the 27th-ranked rushing attack in the NFL behind rookie Devontae Booker. Booker’s best game saw him rack up 83 yards and he has a grand total of three touchdowns this season.
Second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian isn’t having a bad season, but he needs some help staying upright. The rookie QB has been sacked 27 times this season. Then there’s the three games that rookie Paxton Lynch played for the Broncos, in which he was sacked nine times.
It’s obvious who is going to be targeted nine out of every 10 plays for the Broncos, and that’s wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. They have very similar numbers in receptions (75 and 76), yards (958 and 925) and touchdowns (five each).
The only other player with more than 20 receptions this season is Booker, with 21. No other player has more than 211 yards receiving and only six others have caught touchdowns.
Broncos On Defense
If not for the defense, this season would be almost a complete and total loss for Denver. The Broncos have the third-best defense in the entire NFL and have allowed just a little over 4,000 total yards in 2016. Linebacker Von Miller and his 13.5 sacks are tied for the league lead and he is the true captain of this unit, but he has a lot of help, too.
Shane Ray has six sacks and Derek Wolfe has 5.5 sacks. The Broncos are very strong up front and may have even more talent in the secondary. Strong safety T.J. Ward leads the team in total tackles, while cornerback Aqib Talib and free safety Darian Stewart each have three interceptions on the season.
Broncos Players To Watch: WR Jordan Norwood and CB Bradley Roby
While Sanders and Thomas are the focal points of the offense and the players the Patriots need to watch at all times, there are other others out there who can produce. Wide receiver Jordan Norwood plays sparingly, but he has had a few decent performances this season and has the talent to get good numbers. New England needs to watch Norwood closely if they have plans of doubling up Sanders and Thomas.
Cornerback Bradley Roby has found a way to stand out from the crowd on a very talented defense as he is putting together a very good season. He’s already tied his career high for interceptions in a season with two and he’s also scored two defensive touchdowns. Roby has defended eight passes and knows how to find the ball.
This is not a Denver Broncos team that knows how to deal with adversity when faced with a really good team. Inexperience and injuries on offense have really hurt them and the defense is working double-time to keep Denver in every game this season. Now, the Broncos are facing off with one of the best teams in the NFL with Tom Brady playing some of the best football of his career. If the New England Patriots get their special teams problems under control, they should have no issues taking down the Broncos.