The Broncos are firmly in the middle of the pack in terms of pass defense. They’ve given up 20 TDs through the air this season, and I think it’s safe to assume they’ll give up around 3 more this week to go along with 300+ yards. If the Broncos keep the game close, Brady might flirt with 400 and 4. Start him with even more confidence than usual.
Wes Welker/Deion Branch
Welker is an every-week starter, and I would anticipate a lot of quick throws to neutralize the Denver pass rush. He’ll likely draw coverage from Champ Bailey when he lines up outside, but the Pats should move him around enough to keep him in the 7 catch, 100 yard range. I wouldn’t be afraid to use Branch as a flex play this week, as I think he has a decent shot at finding paydirt since teams will be focusing on containing Gronkowski in the red zone. He will probably be around 4 catches and 55 yards.
New England’s Muddled Mess of a Backfield
I give up. Seriously. If you start any of the BJGE/Woodhead/Faulk/Ridley/Vereen logjam during a playoff week in anything but the deepest of leagues, you are playing with fire.
Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez
Denver has fast, athletic linebackers that could limit Gronk’s volume, but he is still a good bet for at least 5 catches, 80 yards and a score. I like Hernandez this week as defenses try to figure out how to take away Gronkowski. Brady won’t hold the ball long, so Hernandez should see a minimum of a half-dozen targets. He’s a good candidate to find the end zone.
Another typical 4-5 XPs, 2 FGs. Ho hum.
New England Defense/Special Teams
Denver does not turn the ball over often, and they do a decent job of limiting game-killing mistakes. If the Patriots don’t jump out to a big early lead, I’d expect the Broncos to put up around 20-24 points and allow 2 or fewer sacks and no more than one turnover. If the Patriots jump all over Denver early, you could probably revise those sack/turnover numbers up a notch or two.