Scouting The Broncos: Super Bowl Champs Approaching Must-Win Territory

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FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots head to Mile High this Sunday to take on the Denver Broncos in a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game.

Here’s a look at what to expect from the defending Super Bowl champs:

OFFENSE
— Quarterback Trevor Siemian hasn’t been anything more than a game manager in his first season as a starter, but he’s played well of late, throwing for 702 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions over his last two starts. There was a one-week gap between those starts, as Siemian missed Denver’s Week 13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars with a foot injury.

— The Broncos’ running back situation is a mess. With C.J. Anderson and Kapri Bibbs both injured, they’re currently relying on rookie Devontae Booker and waiver-wire pickup Justin Forsett at the position. Booker and Forsett combined for just 18 yards on nine carries in Sunday’s 13-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans, during which Siemian was forced to throw a career-high 51 passes.

— Denver does have two quality wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who have posted nearly identical — and impressive — stats this season. Thomas has 76 catches for 925 yards; Sanders has 75 for 958. Each has five touchdown receptions.

— Tight end A.J. Derby has contributed since the Patriots traded him to the Broncos in October. He has 12 catches on 14 targets for 125 yards, though he did have a costly fumble in the loss to Tennessee.

DEFENSE
— Remember this guy?

Tom Brady, Von Miller

That’s Von Miller, who beat the bejesus out of Tom Brady in the AFC title game. The Super Bowl 50 MVP has continued to maul opposing quarterbacks this season, entering the week tied for the NFL lead with 13 1/2 sacks. Denver as a team ranks second in the league with 36 sacks, including six by Shane Ray, 5 1/2 by Derek Wolfe and four by DeMarcus Ware.

— Denver also has plenty of talent in its secondary, including safety T.J. Ward and cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib. Ward leads the team in tackles with 81, while Talib and Harris both are among the league leaders in pass breakups (13 and 12, respectively).

— The Broncos’ beatdown of Brady was the main storyline of these teams’ last meeting, but Denver also completely neutralized New England’s running game, holding the Pats to 44 rushing yards on 17 carries. Brady (three carries, 13 yards) was the team’s leading rusher.

ETC.
— This isn’t quite a must-win for Denver, but it’s pretty close. The 8-5 Broncos currently are in third place in the loaded AFC West and in possession of the conference’s second wild card, and they finish the regular season with games against the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. Both of those teams sit at 10-3 and already have beaten the Broncos once this season.

— Sports Authority Field has been a house of horrors for Brady and the Patriots. They’ve failed to win in three consecutive trips to Denver, including losses in two AFC Championship Games.

Brady has beaten the Broncos on the road just twice in nine tries, with one of those wins coming against Tim Tebow in 2011.

Photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images

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