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…