Here's my analysis of how the Patriots and Broncos match up. Discuss the analysis of others or provide your own.
Everyone knows what a quality team the Patriots have been the past two years. They have won the last two super bowls and two years before that, they won another. Now, New England started the year slowly against a good number of decent teams having been riddled with injuries. Now they face a Broncos team that beat them earlier, but with much healthier players this time around.
The Patriots seemed to show incredible defensive improvement in the second half of the year after poor showing throughout the first half. Still, New England did play a lot of weak offenses over the second half of the year and so we can't put too much stock into their performance.
New England has a fantastic run defense and Denver has a fantastic run offense, so that should be an interesting matchup. A team that gained 4.7 yards per carry facing a team that allowed 3.5 yards per carry should be interesting. The Patriots are also likely improved quite a bit at defending the pass. They are ranked fourth in the lowest completion percentage allowed, but are ranked 30th in yards given up per passing attempt. This shows that they have had success stalling a lot of drives this year, but have also given up tons of big plays. The thing is that a lot of the front seven is more healthy that it was earlier in the year and that means that they should be able to get more pressure. They won't quite be as suseptible to the big play, but it's hard to ignore that passing yards allowed per attempt stat. That sucker just screams vulnerable. And while Denver doesn't pass it a lot, they do have a pretty decent passing game and I have to think that Denver will be able to exploit that a bit. When I try to decide if Denver will have any success against that good New England runn defense, I look back at the year that Denver has had running the ball, but also against some of the teams that they have run against. Denver has faced some excellent run defenses this year and has still excelled running the ball. I mean, they've faced San Diego twice, Kansas City twice, Dallas, Jacksonville (not as good against the run as you'd think, but still good), Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia (Don't forget that they held LT to almost no yards before we got to them and scorched them). So I can't help but think that New England won't be able to stop the run game without throwing a couple of safeties down. And if they do that, Denver has the WRs to beat their corners. Of course, Rod Smith has had a great year and while Ashlie Lelie has not had a superb year, his skills are well suited to take advantage of New England's weakness against the deep ball. Of course, Ashlie will need to do more than just stretch the defense and the Broncos success in the passing game will hinge on his ability to get some of the tough yards in the underneath routes. What also can't be overlooked is that while Denver doesn't have any great third wide reciever, they do have a pretty good set of tight ends with Jeb Putzier and Stephen Alexander. I would expect the Broncos to be able to pass the ball with no problem if New England has to stack the box to slow down the running game. Combine this with the fact that Denver has a pretty good offensive line that is underrated in pass-blocking and you have a offensive matchup that favors Denver a bit. Of course, it won't be a cakewalk, but I would expect for Denver to put some points on the board.
Now, New England's strength on offense is their passing game. There is no doubt about this. Denver's strength on defense is against the pass (Despite the number of yards allowed per game). Denver ranks third in lowest completion percentage allowed and fourth in yards allowed per attempt. They also rank sixth in most interceptions.
Last time these two teams met, Denver was able to get pressure all day. I can't help but think that New England will find a way to protect Brady better this time around, but Denver's secondary is just fantastic. I wouldn't take anybody else's secondary over ours (Though, we there are a few teams with better sets of safeties). For one thing they are young. But they have good technique, tackle well, are incredibly fast and are confident. I don't care that our young corners are rookies, they know how to play. Denver Scored big time with them. I'll give the edge to Brady in this game, but not by tons. Denver will be able to make a good number of stops with our great tackling and fast young corners that are hard to beat.
As for the Patriots run game, this is the weakest point of the Patriots team. Even if Dillon is healthy, I just don't see the Patriots running the ball with any success. I just have no respect for the Patriots running game at all.
They will have to rely on a lot of short passes to compensate and our corners are just superb at closing and tackling on those short passes even if they allow a cushion, so the Patriots will likely have to face a lot of long yardage third down situations. Now, with them having Brady, I would expect them to get some of those third down conversions, but having to convert on long yardage third downs would not be a good situation for the Patriots offense.
Any way that I try to analyze it, I see the Patriots at a disadvantage.
Well, except that they have a good history of beating the odds and winning the superbowl in recent years.