Patriots-Broncos What To Watch For

So today we got the Broncos in town this week, and here are a couple of things to watch for. As always, follow me @CultOfBelichick

-Safety play With Steve Gregory out, the safety position that has been plaguing the Patriots comes into even greater focus. We are going to have Tavon Wilson getting his first start against Peyton Manning, one of the best ever at manipulating safeties. Things could get a little interesting back there, but if they are able to play a solid game, and keep everything in front of them (which shouldn't be that hard given the current state of Peyton's arm), they should be fine here. One positive to bringing in Wilson is his tackling ability; he is a much better tackler than Gregory. This is likely to be incredibly important today with the hulking Demarius Thomas (6'3" 230 lbs) on the other side. All in all, we are going to have to hope these two can keep things clean back there against an apparently resurgent Peyton Manning.

-Offensive line: can they keep it up? The offensive lane played phenomenally last week in Buffalo, with tackles Nate Solder and Sebastion Vollmer being particularly dominant. If they can keep this up against the great edge rushers the Broncos will bring, notably Elvis Dumervill and Von Miller, it will be a huge win for this offense. Belichick and Brady have been stressing all week how Von Miller looks like a completely different player this year, after injuring his hand last year and playing with a cast, but if we can neutralize that, there is not much left on this Broncoos defense that scares me. Additionally, if these big boys get it going like they did last week against Bufallo and are able to run the ball with ease, watch out, it's going to be a blowout.

-Brandon Lloyd v Champ Bailey This matchup should be particularly entertaining due to the familiarity between these two guys. They went up against each other in practice for almost three full years back when Lloyd was still a Bronco. The problem here for the Broncos is that even if Bailey wins this match-up, it probably will still not matter in the grand scheme of things. Lloyd hasn't been a huge factor in the passing game this season despite receiving the most targets of anyone on the team. The one thing that really worries me about this match-up is Bailey reading Lloyd due to the familiarity and jumping one of those back shoulder throws they have been forcing to Lloyd in every game so far, and taking it back to the house. As far as I am concerned, a few catches out of Lloyd and no picks for Bailey and I'll chalk this up as a win.

-Rob Gronkowski's health. So this is a huge blow right now, and I wonder if they might need to start sitting him for some games to get him 100% come playoff time. He is dealing with a hip injury now, and you can tell he just doesn't have the same type of burst off the line, or beastly explosion against the second level players trying to tackle him. Last year, you never saw him get tackled by just one guy, and you have already seen a lot of that this year. We need him to be the normal healthy Gronk if we want to put this victory away.

-Defensive line play. The defensive line has been just sensational this year. The only real complaint in my book has been Rob Ninkovich, but I like what they have been doing with him in recent games, which is fooling around with some protections and utilizing his OLB skills, and dropping him back into pass coverage. I do however, want to see more of Jermaine Cunningham, who has looked very impressive thus far. If we can keep the pressure up with the front four, and drop seven back into coverage, it is going to be a looong looong game for Peyton Manning.