Last Sunday, we were all treated to an instant classic when the Denver Broncos upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in a dramatic overtime finish. With Wild Card Weekend in the rear-view mirror, what excitement and drama will be in store for us this weekend in the Divisional Round of the playoffs?
If Tim Tebow has anything to say about it, he will provide more drama and do his best to improve on last week's effort to upset the heavily favored New England Patriots. Denver will start Saturday night’s game as a double-digit underdog, even though they proved to everyone that they can compete with the big boys in the playoffs.
Despite the Broncos' heroics, the game against the Patriots will be a completely different challenge.
Denver will need to have a great game offensively and score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals, because you know Tom Brady and the Patriots will put up big numbers.
This game will be a rematch from about a month ago, when New England headed to Denver and beat the Broncos by a score of 41-23. The Patriots did trail early in that matchup as Tebow put up a 16-7 lead, but then Denver had turnover troubles and the Patriots took advantage.
Tebow and the Broncos will have to take care of the ball and not commit many penalties. Brady and the Pats will take advantage of any slight opening you give them.
Once again, New England has one of the most prolific offenses in the league. Brady finished the season with 5,235 passing yards, second only to Drew Brees, who threw for 5,476 yards—breaking the single season record for passing yards previously held by Dan Marino.
Brady and the Pats will have had two weeks to rest up before playing the Broncos this weekend. Some would argue that having a two week break hurts, because a team could be out of sync and lose their rhythm.
I do not think that will be the case with New England, as it only allows their shaky defense to rest up and game plan to stop Tebow’s magic from happening once again.
The Patriots defense has been horrible this year to say the least, but thanks to Tom Brady and their high-octane offense, New England has found ways to win despite their defense.
The New England defense ranks 31st in the league in both passing yards allowed and total yards allowed per game. The Pats give up, on average, 293.9 passing yards and 411.1 total yards per game.
These statistics spell bad news for New England, as Tebow gained a lot of confidence throwing the ball last week against the Steelers.
Who will win this matchup?
Tebow made the Steelers' No. 1 defense look like the worst defense in the league, as he passed for 316 yards and threw two TDs, as well as rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown. Tebow had the best game of his short career, and he will have to duplicate that performance to beat the Patriots at Foxborough.
The Broncos will not have to abandon the run this week, because the Patriots defense is also poor in run defense, allowing 117.1 yards per game. This will play right into Tebow and Willis McGahee’s hands, as the Broncos ranked first in the league in rushing, averaging 164.5 yards per game on the ground.
I see the Broncos taking advantage of the Patriots' poor defense by allowing Tebow to do what he does best: run the ball. Denver should also run some screens with McGahee and throw deep to Demaryius Thomas every now and then, considering that Thomas put up All-Star numbers last week with four receptions for 204 yards and a touchdown.
Tebow and Thomas will forever be remembered for their 80-yard hookup in overtime to upset the Steelers.
Tebow also has Eddie Royal as a deep threat option, as the Patriots will be looking to stop Thomas from beating them deep. Royal had three receptions of his own for 49 yards and a touchdown in Denver’s playoff victory, so New England cannot overlook his big-play ability either.
However, on the other side of the ball, you have Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, who are three-time Super Bowl Champions and know what it takes to get to the big dance.
The Patriots have so many ways of exploiting a team’s weaknesses, and they do so through their ability to go up and down the field with relative ease. Brady has put up great numbers again this year, but he could not do it without his many weapons on offense.
Brady has the luxury of throwing to Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski, who both have accumulated over 1,000 yards receiving this year. Welker has 122 receptions for 1,569 yards with nine TDs, while Gronkowski has 90 receptions for 1,327 yards with 17 TDs.
The Patriots offense also has weapons in Aaron Hernandez, Deion Branch, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead.
Even on the defensive side of the ball, New England can create turnovers when they need them most, as they have accumulated 23 interceptions on the year.
I believe that this matchup will be a high-scoring affair and much closer than people think. In their Week 15 meeting, the score would have been much closer if the Broncos had taken care of the football. And who knows, maybe the outcome would have been different as well.
Denver came out on the short end after that game, but Tom Brady must be able to see the future. He told Tebow after the game that they may see one another later in the postseason.
Brady knew what he was talking about, as the Broncos and the Patriots should put on an exciting game Saturday night.
New England is a heavy favorite in this matchup, but after my prediction of Denver upsetting the Steelers last week, I am going to go out on a limb and say that Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos will once again prove everyone wrong and upset New England.
Tom Brady has also had trouble against the Broncos in the past. Brady has eight career starts against Denver with a record of 2-6. I see that record being 2-7 after Saturday night, as the Patriots defense will have trouble stopping Tebow and the Broncos' sudden aerial attack.
Tebow Magic is back after being on a three week hiatus to end the season. But none of that is relevant now, with Denver having all the momentum entering this game.