The Patriots headed to Denver Friday afternoon as prohibitive favorites in Sunday's AFC Championship Game in Denver against the Broncos. This despite the fact that the combination of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick is just 2-6 when playing in the Mile High City.
Over the years there have been few venues that have vexed the Patriots quite like Denver. Miami's Orange Bowl was one such place, but despite some struggles the last couple of season in South Florida those troubles were more in the past than New England's failures in Denver.
So, as we prepare for Sunday's showdown we decided to take a look at what specifically was worthy of earning concern this time around. After all, John Elway is long gone. So is the dangerous precision passing of Peyton Manning, who is a shell of his former self at this stage of his career.
Therefore, our Samsonite Make Your Case question this week asks, What concerns you most about the matchup with the Broncos?
PFW's Andy Hart says...
The Broncos Defense
As much as the Patriots were boosted last by the return of Julian Edelman and the return to dominance for Rob Gronkowski, New England will be facing a different beast this week against the No. 1-ranked Denver defense. The Broncos can cover, rush the passer, stop the run and tackle all over the field. Wade Phillips is as experienced a coordinator as you will find.
As much as there was a good feeling in last Saturday's win over the Chiefs, the Patriots didn't run the ball at all and gave the Kansas City defenders plenty of chances to make plays on the ball.
New England's trip to Super Bowl 50 literally goes through a Denver defense that's currently the best the game has to offer. --AH
PFW's Paul Perillo says...
Mile High Magic
Certainly the Denver defense is a major hurdle in the Patriots road to a potential Super Bowl title defense. But the bigger issue that New England faces is a far more intangible foe.
It's the simple nature of playing in the Mile High City, a place that has been very unwelcoming to Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the entire organization over the years. It could be the thin air. It could be the confrontational Denver crowd. Some might even think it's simply bad luck in the Patriots personal house of horrors.
But there is no arguing the fact that the Brady-and-Belichick tandem that's dominated on just about every field it's stepped onto has struggled in Denver. History and environment are the Patriots biggest concerns this week. --PP