The Rematch… no, not Alabama versus LSU. This one will be more exciting than watching paint dry. A lot more exciting. And you are guaranteed not to hear the expression “Honey Badger” once.
This is THE rematch. This rematch will have action and drama galore. I’m speaking of course of the Saturday night’s AFC divisional showdown in Foxboro, Massachusetts – the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots. If it seems like déjà vu, there’s a good reason. It was just about a month ago that the two teams faced off in Denver. Even back then, there was a playoff feel to the game. Now the game will come by that feel legitimately. The winner goes on to face either the Baltimore Ravens or the Houston Texans for a chance to go to the big dance. The loser gets to watch the rest of the playoffs from their respective barcaloungers.
The odds makers aren’t giving Tim Tebow and his loyal band of Donkeys much of a shot. The Patriots are favored by almost two touchdowns, easily the largest spread of the weekend. Not surprising given the last contest resulted in a 41-23 Patriots victory and started a Denver losing streak. But the Broncos, as evidenced by their stunning (some say mystical) victory last weekend, seem to thrive on being the underdog.
And keep in mind, the lopsided final score of the last game was hardly indicative of how the two teams played – take away the three Broncos turnovers in the second quarter and suddenly it is a very, very different game.
In the first half of that game, the Broncos absolutely ran over the Patriots defense, rushing for 252 yards on 31 attempts, a gaudy 8.1 yards per carry average. And, if the Patriots plan on following the footsteps of the Steelers by playing eight guys up front in an attempt to slow down Willis McGahee, Tebow has proven that he can find Demaryius Thomas and other receivers downfield with the regularity and precision that many thought implausible a couple of weeks ago, given his awkward throwing style and proclivity to toss a wobbly ball. If the Pats focus too much on the run, Tebow could easily have another career day against a second-tier secondary, perhaps passing for 632 yards this time (John 3:16 times two).
Make no mistake about it, either, the Broncos will have to score early and often if they want to win. Coach Fox won’t be able to forgo too many 4th downs in trade for field goals if the Broncos hope to keep up with Tom Terrific and a Patriots offense that seems to score at will against all foes. It won’t be surprising if both teams end up scoring well into the 30s.
Moreover, the Patriots recently added a not-so-secret weapon in the form of former Bronco head coach Josh McDaniels, the offensive mastermind who bit off more than he could chew as a leader of an entire organization. But there is no question that he knows offense and how to get the best of Mr. Brady. Not to mention, he’ll be able to provide a pretty decent scouting report on Denver’s personnel, especially the newly-minted dynamic duo of Tebow and Thomas, who he drafted in the first round two years ago.
One Denver columnist has gone so far as to suggest that Roger Goodell step in and ban McDaniels from being on the Patriots staff for the game due to the extreme advantage it gives them. That seem a little much, but neither McDaniels nor Belichick should be allowed anywhere near a video camera prior to the opening kickoff.
So, there you have it. The game of the weekend, maybe of the year. Arguably the two most popular players in the NFL. The young upstart versus the consummate professional. Heart and brawn against poise and precision. The new coach in town versus the old coach run out of town. Regardless of who advances, this one promises to be something special.