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Round Table: Biggest Concern

What's your biggest concern for the Patriots as they head into Denver?

Raj: The altitude. Denver is 5280 ft, better known as 1 mile, above sea level. It's somewhat difficult for the visiting players to breathe in that. That's why you always see more oxygen masks on the visiting sideline. If the Patriots fly out tonight, then it will give them enough time to get adjusted to the altitude and time zone. If you take that aspect out, then it becomes any ordinary game with neither side getting an unfair advantage. But the height serves as a blessing for the Broncos and their fans.

Rick:  The biggest concern for the Patriots heading into the AFC title game is the passing game. I know that’s saying a lot considering a QB who is going for his 6th Super Bowl appearance is under center, but the offensive line still has some holes in it that can be exploitable for a Denver pass rush that is strong even without Von Miller. It would be a lot more easier for the passing game if Aaron Dobson were healthy, but all signs point to him missing this game as well. New England’s passing game was good enough in November to make that historic comeback, but without Gronkowski, it will be tough for the Patriots to come back from a 2 touchdown deficit against Peyton Manning. The run game has been the story the last few weeks, but this is the game where you need the good balance plus big plays from the passing game in order to book a ticket to New York. Another concern is Broncos’ tight end Julius Thomas. He is a matchup problem for the Patriots and will be a big test for rookie 2nd round pick Jamie Collins. 

Jason:  My biggest concern is New England's offensive line vs. Denver's front 7. New England has to run the ball to put up points on the scoreboard. Blount has torn up a pair of substandard run defenses in the past two weeks, but the Broncos should be a stiffer challenge. That is the matchup to watch.

Derek: For me, the biggest concern is the Patriots pass defense.  I know that unlike past seasons, the New England secondary has actually been the strength of this defense.  However, Peyton Manning has a ton of weapons available to him, and the Patriots are going to need a big day out of Talib, Dennard, Arrington, McCourty, and Gregory.  They need to slow down the aerial assault of the Broncos and hold Denver to the low 20's.  The past few seasons, the Patriots have been done in by strong defenses who shut down Tom Brady with pressure.  I'm not expecting that type of performance from the Broncos.  The Patriots should be able to put up a decent amount of points on the Broncos.  The key to the game is to not get into a shoot out, and that responsibility falls onto the secondary.

Summary:  Four different writers, four different biggest concerns.  Is that a bad thing, indicating that the Patriots have a lot to worry about?  Or is it good thing, suggesting that there's no major flaw for Denver to expliot?  We'll find out on Sunday…

Derek Hanson

About Derek Hanson

Doctor by day, blogger by night, Derek Hanson is the founder of the Bloguin Network and has been a Patriots fan for more than 20 years.

Round Table: Biggest Concern

What is your biggest concern regarding the Patriots as they head down the final stretch towards the playoffs?

Jason: Health, followed by health, and then health. The "next man up" philosophy only goes so far. They've lost two of their three best defenders and a key cog on the offensive line for the season, the Hall of Fame QB's throwing hand looks like with five Vienna sausages attached to a colostomy bag, and their two best pass-catchers visit the training room as often as NAMBLA members visit Little League games. They need to stay healthy to get anywhere in the playoffs.

Raj: Health. How long can the Patriots stay healthy? Players are falling like dominoes to injuries and it's scaring me. They can't go far in the playoffs if Brady is the only player on the field with experience. That's something the Patriots coaching staff has to look after. Possibly help prepare the players on how to avoid injuries before the game? Whatever it takes..But I hope to see no more injuries towards the final stretch.

Rick:  The biggest concern for me on the Patriots is the defensive line. When you get into January, teams are going to pound the football. We have seen teams like the Jets and the Bengals (playoff contenders) run wild on the Patriots. I am sure Jamaal Charles and Knowshon Moreno could do the same. The losses of Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, and Jerod Mayo could loom large in the postseason. Plus, the hip of Aqib Talib is a major factor. We saw in the AFC Championship Game last year that if Talib isn't there, the pass defense is exploitable. Talib is playing like an elite cornerback this year. I trust the offense due to the balance they can have on the ground with Ridley, Blount, and the return of Vereen. Its the defense under fire that has been better, but it may be only a matter of time that the depth gets a little exposed. 

Derek: Rather than repeat the "health" speeches of Jason and Raj, I'll take things in a slightly different direction.

The Tennessee Titans are a legit Wild Card contender.

Bernard Pollard now plays for the Tennessee Titans. 

Do I need to expound on this any further?  

Derek Hanson

About Derek Hanson

Doctor by day, blogger by night, Derek Hanson is the founder of the Bloguin Network and has been a Patriots fan for more than 20 years.

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