The Denver Broncos were victorious against the San Diego Chargers in last Sunday’s divisional round, which means that they play the New England patriots today in the AFC championship game. Last week I explained what Denver needed to do to win against the Chargers so this week I decided to do the same thing for the Patriots.
In my mind, the game plan for the Broncos should stay pretty much the same this week. I’m not trying to say that the Patriots and the Chargers are similar teams, I just think that at this point in the season the Broncos keys to victory will be basically the same no matter who they play.
The Broncos have an amazing offense that supports a sub-par defense, and because of that it really doesn’t matter who they play because their offense will basically need to carry the load no matter what. With that said, the Broncos will win today if they:
Keep up the third down momentum: The Broncos were the second most effective third down team during the regular season. Last week 3rd downs were critical. Obviously the 3rd and 17 at the end of the game was critical and throughout the game Denver was able to convert on 9 third downs on 13 attempts.
Third down conversions will be huge again this week, mainly to keep Tom Brady off the field. The Broncos can win the game without scoring a touchdown on every drive, as long as they are able to march down the field and take a lot of time off the clock.
Keep running the ball, especially in the red zone: Look, I know that Peyton Manning is one of the greatest players of all time, but he can’t do it alone. Knowshon Moreno and the rest of the running game are just as important to the Broncos offense than the passing game is.
With the exception of the touchdown pass to Wes Welker, the Broncos struggled in red zone last week when threw the ball. This week the Broncos will need to score on every single red zone trip, and I think that a healthy dose of the running game will allow them to do that.
Get 4 defensive stops: In my opinion, four stops will send the Broncos to the super bowl. Last week the Broncos scored on four of their seven possessions (not counting the drive that ended the game) and the defense was able to generate five stops.
If the Broncos defense can get at least four stops today I think that Peyton Manning and company could turn at least three of those possessions into points. Any lead could be huge, because both teams have suspect defenses and the game could easily turn into a “shootout-last with the ball wins” scenario.
Avoid a second half letdown: As great and as dominant as the Broncos have been this year, they have a disturbing trend of second half let downs. Now, normally it doesn’t matter because the Broncos have been up by enough (case in point: last week) but against the Patriots the Broncos have to make sure they stay focused throughout the game. If they do, they should move on to the Super Bowl in two weeks.