New England Patriots Week 10: Keys to winning another one in Denver

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 18: Quarterback Tom Brady
DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 18: Quarterback Tom Brady /

On Sunday night, the New England Patriots travel to Denver to face the Broncos. With a win, the Patriots will move to 7-2.

Jeez! Another day, another teapot tempest for the New England Patriots! The focus should be on one of the NFL’s “best offense against one of its best defense” game. Instead, nearly all the talk around here is about tight end Martellus Bennett!

I was as ecstatic as anyone to hear the Packers had released Marty and figured the Pats would pick him up. I had barely written a note on it Wednesday when I heard that it had already happened. Wow! I thought, “the Twin Towers are back! Marty and Gronk Rule!”

Unfortunately, as Bennett has previously mentioned, he still has shoulder injuries, but will attempt to play through the pain in what he has said is his last season.

My take on the real reason Bennett was released is his complete lack of motivation about 15 seconds after QB Aaron Rodgers went down. Bennett has another idea of why he was released.

"“All about money. I get it. But don’t lie homie. You knew [what] was up.”"

This is also fairly likely, especially considering Bennett’s retirement comments.

He explained:

"“During the bye week I got off anti-inflammatories to clean my system and could really feel the pain. So I asked to examine it first day back in. And that’s when we found out it was really [expletive] up. They knew. They panicked. Thinking that I was trying to go on IR [injured reserve] and be on their books next year. When I mentioned that I would possible (sic) retire. So they tried to [get] me before they thought I would [get] them. This was all about money.”"

Now, even with all of the drama, I am still glad he is here. It is low risk, high reward move; a typical Patriots move. He practiced with the team and is making the trip to Denver so his shoulder isn’t incapacitating him. He’ll have two days of rest before Sunday night so, at the least, Denver will have to game plan for him.

ATLANTA, GA – SEPTEMBER 17: Martellus Bennett
ATLANTA, GA – SEPTEMBER 17: Martellus Bennett /

Then there’s how much the team strategy has changed and so forth. Is he still on the same page as he was last year with TB-12? If nothing else, the Broncos will have to cover him if he’s out there.

Mike Reiss even reports that Marty is planning to play through the pain, but it will probably be in a three tight end alignment where the assumption is the pass will go to Gronk. But, boy, I’d really like to see Bennett get the ball!

Bottom Line: either he will play or he won’t. Either he’ll make a difference or he won’t. Either way, it’s good to have him back with the Pats. Now, let’s talk about the game!

Keys to the game

Traditionally, defense wins games. In reality, not this time! At least, that’s what the bookies believe. Not when Brock Osweiler is Denver’s quarterback and C. J. Anderson is their running back. (In fact, Las Vegas upped the odds 1.5 points after Bennett joined the team so the Pats are now 7.5 point favorites. Bing Predicts even gives NE a 79% chance of winning!

Don’t get me wrong: the Broncos are a good, solid team playing at full strength (save for a few “questionables” who will probably play) that carry a chip on their shoulder against NE.

Osweiler is not really as bad as some people say, Anderson is running against a defense missing both captain Dont’a Hightower and stout DL Malcolm Brown, and the thin air of Mile High Stadium has wrecked more than one championship-bound team, making passes float over receivers’ hands.

Says Coach Belichick:

"“They’re very good against the run, they have a strong pass rush, they cover as well as any team in the league (and) they have great players at all three levels of defense!”More from New England PatriotsFormer Patriot Stevan Ridley Put Kevin Hart in a Wheelchair3 Patriots Who Can Clinch a Roster Spot in Final Preseason GamePatriots Get Win Over Division Rivals Before Season Even BeginsNew Massachusetts Sportsbook Promos: $450 Bonus to Bet on Your Patriots at Caesars + DraftKingsEzekiel Elliott Reveals 3 Reasons Why He Signed With Patriots"

However, the Patriots have been here before and know what to expect. Even better, coming off a bye week, they’re feeling as fine as feasible and, finally, they’ve had two weeks to game-plan for this team whom the Eagles – arguably the best team in the NFL – stomped last week 51-23 in Philadelphia.

Then again, the Broncos are good enough to avenge that embarrassment by stomping the Patriots in Denver on national TV. People like Von Miller spells Trouble with a capital T for the Pats’ sometimes shaky offensive line. And don’t forget that Miller’s Broncos already beat the NE boys in Denver – back in 2016.

That said, special teams – a Belichick specialty – may be the difference (again) this week as they were against the Chargers two weeks ago when TB-12 and the boys could only muster a single touchdown!

I’m expecting a tough, competitive game between two motivated teams that either side could win including a great output by the Patriots’ defense and a stymied effort by the Brady Bunch. However, if Tom can get rid of the ball quickly and put the team up a few scores at half time, I won’t be surprised if the Broncos shuffle off to the stables as they did in Philly.

Final Score: Patriots 24 Broncos 21

Go Pats!

Squib Notes:

– Phillip Dorsett: I’m not the only one to think that the expensive acquisition (for Jacoby Brissett) might finally have a heck of a game this week. Belichick has been mentioning him this week. Sunday night would certainly be an opportune time for him to show what he’s worth!

FOXBORO, MA – OCTOBER 1: Phillip Dorsett
FOXBORO, MA – OCTOBER 1: Phillip Dorsett /

– Stephon Gilmore: he’s expected to play . . . but for which Gilmore will show up? You’ll remember he lost a game all by himself some weeks back. However, with the bye week under his belt and stung by all the criticism, this talented corner might feast on Denver’s journeyman quarterback . . . as many others have! Besides he and Malcolm Butler just might want to show Aqib Talib and Harris who’s boss at cornerback.

– Tom Brady in Denver: aw heck, everybody knows that Denver is TB-12’s bugaboo. Read that stuff elsewhere.

– Trey Flowers: got some well-deserved accolades in the press this week. The third year man has been lighting things up with his sacks and pressures. Even better, he seems to revel in his role this season. Let’s hope he has fun Sunday.

– The LAW has arrived: last week, LaAdrian Waddle replaced well-regarded Marcus Cannon in the offensive line and things continued on as they had been. Hope he’s ready for the faster Broncos!

– Alan Branch: with Malcolm Brown out, Branch really needs to step up and show some of last year’s form. Here’s hoping.

More from Chowder and Champions

– Ricky Jean Francois: the Pats’ newest defensive lineman only got guarded praise from Belichick: “We’ll see how it goes”. He noted that RJF was added for “depth”. However, the owner of 30 Dunkin’ Donuts franchises is happy to be here “in Dunkin’ Donut heaven!” Welcome! Now, produce!

– The Remaining Schedule: Wow, what a turn of events! The Broncos in Denver and the Raiders in Mexico City both look beatable whereas the Bills are scary! (Well, they did up until last week’s game.) Also the Dolphins and the Jets but to a lesser extent. That leaves the Steelers as the biggest challenge down the line but even they look beatable. Pittsburgh should have lost in Detroit save for the Lions being unable to score a single TD in the red zone. (Interestingly, Detroit would have won had it stuck with field goals on fourth down.) So our worst fears lie in our own division that we used to own!

– Road Warriors: all the remaining games except one (Miami) between now and Christmas Eve eve are on the road. Not a problem (except Pittsburgh – maybe).The Patriots have yet to lose on the road this season! Of course that’s only the Saints, the Buccaneers, and the Jets . . . .

– Jason Gay of the WSJ listed the best teams halfway through the season. Under the “category” of Maybe there’s something there . . . but who knows (not me), he listed:

– Atlanta Falcons

– Dallas Cowboys and then

– Dan Snyder’s Washington Sadness Machine . . . .

Oh, he did list the New England Patriots with the other 6-2 and 7-1 teams under “Teams that aren’t completely awful and might actually do non-embarrassing things in the playoffs”.

Next: New England Patriots: With Chris Hogan out, Phillip Dorsett must step up

– Cowboys owner Jerry Jones getting a positive mention in this corner? Yep, ’tis true! He’s threatened to sue the NFL if they renew Roger Goodell’s contract. Hope so! However, I expect the other owners might placate him with some limitations on Goodell’s power and re-sign him thus making Jerry resigned to the situation. Football makes strange bedfellows!