PFF Preview: Broncos @ Patriots, Week 9
Two of the greatest of all time face off for the 16th time on Sunday as the Denver Broncos (6-1) travel to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough to battle the New England Patriots for AFC supremacy. This highly anticipated matchup has been covered from every angle, sideline to sideline and end zone to end zone not because of the potential home field advantage in the playoffs at stake, but because two legends are winding down their Hall of Fame careers. What makes this game even more interesting is that it is expected to occur during inclement weather.
Peyton Manning had one of the greatest seasons in NFL history last year, but he also had a couple of blips along the way. Arguably his worst outing of the season came against the Patriots in the regular season where he threw for a season-low 150 yards. One big reason for this was Manning’s struggles under pressure. On nine of his 38 drop-backs, Manning completed one pass for 5 yards, an interception, two sacks and a QB Rating of a 0.0. For 2013 Manning was pressured on 22.7% of his drop-backs and was second in Accuracy Percentage. In the AFC Championship game, Manning handled pressure much better, completing 66.7% of his passes with no interceptions or sacks.
New England’s secondary has been very stout against the pass this year. With newcomers Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner joining free safety Devin McCourty, the Patriots have given up 211 yards per game, 2nd best in the NFL. With eight interceptions to go along with 21 sacks, the Patriots defense is rounding into championship form. Revis has given up just 1.01 Yards Per Coverage Snap (13th best) while McCourty has given up just 0.23 Yards Per Coverage Snap (10th best).
So while everyone is focusing on Manning vs Brady (and rightfully so), Peyton Manning and his inconsistencies versus Bill Belichick’s defenses have been big factors in these matchups.
Three things to watch for:
DeMarcus Ware – A lot has been said about the duo of Von Miller and Ware, but Miller has been the force while Ware has been average. Ware has a +1.9 grade on the season (19th at the position) and a Pass Rushing Productivity of 10.0 (14th).
Ryan Clady – After missing most of the 2013 season, Clady has been rusty in 2014. While he hasn’t given up a sack and posts a solid 96.5 Pass Blocking Efficiency, Clady has a -6.6 PFF grade with a -6.9 in run blocking
Virgil Green – Tight end Julius Thomas makes all the headlines, but Green is the run blocking force on the team. Grading at a +5.9 in run blocking that’s 2nd best in the NFL on just 123 snaps.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady – Since Week 4, Brady has a PFF grade of +16.3, has tallied a 14:0 touchdown-to-interception ratio and has been sacked just four times.
Dont’a Hightower – The third-year linebacker is having his best season yet. With five sacks and 23 run stops, Hightower is sixth in the NFL at inside linebacker, +7.2.
Patrick Chung – Quietly having a solid year, grading at +4.3 while being stellar against the run. With 15 stops, Chung posts an 8.2 Run Stop Percentage mark, good for seventh in the NFL.
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