Broncos vs. Patriots: 5 Reasons Denver Can Pull off Upset Against the Patriots

Eitan Katz@@EitanKatzAnalyst IIJanuary 9, 2012

Broncos vs. Patriots: 5 Reasons Denver Can Pull off Upset Against the Patriots

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    Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos delivered another thriller, this time a 29-23 overtime win against the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Many pundits argued that Denver would simply be overmatched by a superior Steelers team, that a team that backed into the playoffs with an 8-8 record and a three-game losing streak couldn't possibly beat a 12-4 Pittsburgh team led by two-time Super Bowl-winner Ben Roethlisberger.

    It seems, however, that any time Tebow is involved, you can throw everything you think you know out the window. 

    This weekend was no exception. After blowing a 20-6 lead, Tebow got a chance at redemption in overtime and took advantage. He hit Demaryius Thomas on about a 20-yard slant play off a play-action and Thomas did the rest, outrunning two Steeler defenders for the last 60 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

    It's Tebow Time in Denver, and the victory is worth celebrating, but Denver's toughest matchup awaits it in only six days.

    The Broncos will travel to New England to face Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots

    I expect Denver to be huge underdogs once again this week in Gillette Stadium against a Pats team that handled the Broncos fairly easily in a 41-23 Week 15 win.

    Beating Brady in Foxborough is hard, but it's not impossible. There are five reasons why Denver could absolutely pull off another stunner this Saturday night.

5. Willis McGahee Will Be Healthy This Time

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    In their Week 15 meeting, everyone remembers how fast the Denver Broncos jumped ahead of the New England Patriots.

    The Pats didn't seem to want to play defense, so the Broncos ran the ball almost every down, accumulating 167 yards rushing in the first quarter while building a 13-7 lead. Unfortunately, they lost veteran running back Willis McGahee, the second-most important player in Denver's option offense.

    McGahee ran wild against the Patriots in limited time, going for 70 yards on just seven carries in the first quarter, before basically sitting the rest of the game. His backup, Lance Ball, started off hot with a 32-yard touchdown scamper. However, his fumble in the second quarter led to a New England field goal that put the Patriots ahead for good, 17-16.

    Ball finished the night with terrific numbers, 11 rushes for 58 yards, but McGahee's loss was a big part of Denver's inability to sustain its first-quarter dominance on the ground.

    New England gets back big-hitters Patrick Chung and Brandon Spikes for this game, but McGahee should still be a big factor against what is a weak New England defense.

4. John Fox Won't Be Outmatched by Bill Belichick

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    It's hard enough to match up with the New England Patriots talent-wise, so trying to win the battle of talent and coaching is nearly impossible.

    Denver Broncos fans need not fear. With John Fox, the Broncos have one of the very few head coaches in the NFL who can actually be considered in a class close to Bill Belichick. The Pats head coach has already carved out a space in the Hall of Fame and is now on a mission to be considered the best ever.

    Recent playoff defeats, however, at the hands of the New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets have left fans wondering whether Belichick's star is fading.

    Last season, not only did the Jets have the talent to defeat New England, they had a perfect game plan. Rex Ryan outsmarted Belichick that game and, in turn, the Jets crushed the Patriots.

    On Saturday night, if the Broncos want to have any sort of chance, Fox is going to have to bring his A-game with a defensive game plan to consistently get after and aggravate Tom Brady, and an offensive game plan designed to keep Brady off the field by taking advantage of New England's porous defense.

    Fox has already more than earned his keep with his ingenious offensive switch to an option attack, a switch that propelled the Broncos, with Tim Tebow, to the playoffs in the first place. A victory over Belichick, who beat him in Super Bowl XXXVIII, would be icing on the cake for Fox's magnificent first year as Denver's head coach.

3. The New England Patriots Defense Is a Lot Worse Than the Pittsburgh Steelers'

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    The Denver Broncos just hung 29 points on the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the best defenses in the NFL.

    Pitt ranked first in passing yards against, allowing an average of only 186.3 passing yards per game this season. Tim Tebow obviously didn't get the memo, as he had his best day as a passer in his short NFL career.

    Tebow was sensational, running for a touchdown, throwing for two touchdowns with no picks, and passing for a ridiculous 316 yards on just 10 completions. Five of those completions were 30-plus-yard plays, including the 80-yard game-winner to Demaryius Thomas.

    Pittsburgh had Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor in their secondary, which is a lot more than New England can say about a secondary that features Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty as safeties, with Kyle Arrington and Antwaun Molden as corners. Sometimes, on special occasions, they will even bring in wide receiver Julian Edelman as the star (slot) cornerback.

    These defenses don't have a lot in common, if you catch my drift. 

    If Tebow was able to pick apart the Pittsburgh secondary, there is no reason to think he won't be able to shred this band of misfits.

2. You Can Never Underestimate the Power of Tim Tebow

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    It has gotten to a point where people are actually considering converting to Christianity because of Tim Tebow's heroics. In other words, it's getting out of control.

    Tebow has made a living this season with heart-wrenching fourth-quarter comebacks, leading his team back from the dead. Against Pittsburgh, Tebow Time was delayed a quarter. Tebow led Denver down the field after getting the ball with 9:59 left on the clock, but running back Willis McGahee fumbled away a chance at a potential game-winning field goal.

    Instead, Tebow waited until overtime to wave his wand and make magic on his game-winner to Demaryius Thomas.

    Against the New England Patriots, Tebow's going to need a full 60-minute effort.

    The Pats are going to put up points in bunches, so Tebow is going to need to make the turnovers that plagued him last time they played disappear. He fumbled twice, losing one, and Denver finished 0-2 on fourth-down attempts.

    After everything he's done this year, it's impossible to think Tebow throws up a stinker this weekend. In fact, after everything he's done this year, it's hard to bet against Tebow, period. A win in New England would be nothing short of a miracle.

    Luckily for Denver fans, their quarterback is a miracle-maker.

1. The Pass-Rushing Duo of Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil Can Disrupt Tom Brady

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    It has long been said that if you can get pressure on Tom Brady with the front four, you can stop the New England Patriots offense.

    The New York Jets and Giants have proven that time and time again, and despite Brady's otherworldly numbers, this season is no exception.

    With Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, the Denver Broncos have the requisite tools to get Brady out of rhythm and put him on his ass a few times. Last time they played, Brady was sacked twice, including a monstrous power-sack by Dumervil. Denver is going to need that kind of effort more consistently if it wants to slow down a Patriots team that has averaged more than 36 points per game since Nov. 13.

    Denver shouldn't be expected to bring the Pats' high-flying attack to a halt, but slowing them down and keeping them under 30 points is a reasonable goal.

    If they can keep Brady under 30, and Tebow plays mistake free like he did against the Steelers, there is no reason the Broncos can't pull off the upset.

    Tebow might be the main attraction, but without Miller and Dumervil, the Broncos wouldn't have even sniffed the playoffs. On Saturday night, if an upset is indeed on the docket, they will have to continue their meteoric rise as one of the best pass-rushing tandems in the NFL by consistently collapsing the pocket and forcing Brady into mistakes.