ESPN’s Tim Hasselbeck said it best: in order for Denver to have a chance against New England Saturday night, the Broncos defensive strategy against Tom Brady and the Pats offense will have to be dynamic.
Switching things up, that is what Coach John Fox will have to do against the Patriots. Combination coverage (meaning doubling up on Gronkowski one play, then Hernandez the next, and then Welker the play after) is what the Broncos defense will have to focus on. Disguising the play before the snap, and not allowing Tom Brady to be able to read the defense, will be a major factor in being able to stop New England’s offense. Confusion will be the key.
Former Jets Coach Herm Edwards emphasizes that the Broncos defense cannot afford to let Gronkowski have a free-release up the field, meaning that once the ball is snapped, Denver’s linebackers need to get their hands on him right from the line of scrimmage. Additionally, the Broncos will need to shut down Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez, with 9 receptions for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns against Denver back in Week 15, will be another threat to the Denver defense. Putting Champ Bailey, their best corner, on Hernandez will give the Broncos an edge in forcing Tom Brady to think twice about dumping the ball off to the tight end. Denver can take something away from their previous game against the Pats, which is that the turnovers were what cost them. 2 turnovers and a muffed punt from Denver helped the Patriots score 27 points in the second and third quarters, while the Broncos were only able to kick a field goal. If the Broncos can minimize the chance of turnovers Saturday, put pressure on Tom Brady in the pocket, and keep the Pats’ coaching staff confused about their defensive coverage, then they may have a shot at another upset this weekend.
For the New York Giants, in order to have a chance against Green Bay, they will need to have stellar performances on both sides of the ball. Mark my words, this game will be closer than most people think. There is something to be said about being hot in the playoffs; the defending Superbowl champs can attest to that. The last time these teams met was back in Week 13, which happened to be an offensive showdown. Both Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers threw for over 300 yards and at least 3 touchdowns. Sunday afternoon, Eli and the Giants offense will need to come out strong against the mediocre Packers defense, attacking downfield and trying to force one-on-one coverage. Although fair at best, the Giants running game will need to step up as well, with Jacobs and Bradshaw accumulating at least 100 yards combined. If they start out weak and sluggish like last week against Atlanta, then we may see a too-little-too-late performance from the Giants later in the game in trying to catch up to the Packers scoring. That being said, Eli Manning will have to be smart with and protect the football, more important than ever against the Green Bay defense. Although the Packers have given up a lot of yards on defense each week, they have managed to average 2 interceptions a game throughout the season. While Eli will need to make aggressive throws downfield into tight pockets, if he is not careful with the football, then it is going to cost the Giants. Pierre-Paul, Tuck, Umenyiora, and Kiwanuka all need to reach Aaron Rodgers and put pressure on the quarterback throughout the entire game. But the pass rush will not be enough.
More importantly on defense, the Giants will have to defend the quick game of the Green Bay Packers. If Aaron Rodgers is getting the ball out quickly, like he generally tends to do, then that powerful pass rush we’ve seen out of the G-Men lately will be ineffective. Like Herm Edwards also stated earlier in the week, the Giants ought to have studied the Packers only loss, which was to the Kansas City Chiefs. If they play man-to-man on the inside, do not allow the three-step drop, have safety Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle play over the top so Rodgers cannot throw the backside fade, and play man underneath to prevent the slant, then the Giants D may have a chance in propelling them to the NFC Championship.
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