The Denver Broncos are in a freefall and the prospect of stopping the tailspin doesn’t look promising with the defending Super Bowl champions coming to town. The Broncos have dropped four in a row and will try to bounce back from an ugly beat-down when they host Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a prime-time matchup on Sunday night.
Denver was blasted by Philadelphia 51-23 last week in its third straight road game, but the team has enjoyed success at home against the Patriots and Brady. “It is the perfect opponent,” Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler said of New England. “I think any time you find yourself in a losing streak like this and not playing good football, you want to play a great opponent because if you can go out there and play a good football game and find a way to get a win, it’s going to create a ton of momentum for your football team.” The Patriots have ripped off four straight victories to move into a tie with Pittsburgh for the AFC’s best record and are coming off a bye, but Brady has won only three of 10 career matchups against Denver in the Mile High City. “There’s little margin for error when you go out there,” Brady said. “They have a great defense. They have great players on both sides of the ball. You can’t go out there and make a bunch of mistakes and expect to win.”
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Patriots -7.5. O/U: 46.5
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (6-2): New England has not been an offensive juggernaut during its winning streak, averaging just under 22 points per game, but Brady leads the league with 2,541 passing yards while throwing for 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Brady continues to spread the wealth, with five different receivers catching at least five passes in a 21-13 victory over San Diego before the bye, but wideout Chris Hogan is expected to miss the game due to injury. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has five touchdown receptions and is second to running back James White with 34 catches, missed last season’s 16-3 victory in Denver. The Patriots owned the league’s worst defense through four games but they have yielded an average of 12.8 points over the past four.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS (3-5): Osweiler, set to make his second straight start following the benching of Trevor Siemian, beat the Patriots while with Denver in 2015, passing for 270 yards and a score in a 30-24 overtime victory. Duplicating that feat could be considerably tougher this time around with his three top receivers — Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Bennie Fowler — and three of his starting offensive linemen all dealing with assorted injuries. The ground game needs to get untracked after C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker and Jamaal Charles managed 35 yards on 21 carries in Philadelphia. Denver’s defense is No. 2 in the league with 280.8 yards allowed, but ranks in the middle of the pack with 19 sacks despite the presence of linebacker Von Miller.
1. New England is 3-0 away from home this season, running its road winning streak to 11 games.
2. Miller has 7.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception in the last six matchups versus New Englands, playoffs included.
3. Patriots coach Bill Belichick needs one win to tie Tom Landry for No. 3 all-time with 270 victories, including playoffs.
PREDICTION: Patriots 23, Broncos 20