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Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
Sunday, 8:15 pm EST - NBC
New England and Denver last met on Jan. 14 in an AFC divisional playoff game at Denver. The Patriots out-gained the Broncos 420-286 in that game, but also turned the ball over five times. New England looks for a better effort and tries to remain unbeaten when they host the Broncos on Sunday night.
The defeat was New England's first in 11 postseason games with Bill Belichick as coach and Tom Brady at quarterback, and ended the team's run of two consecutive Super Bowl titles.
This season the Patriots have started 2-0 but it has not been easy. After recovering from a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat Buffalo 19-17 in Week 1, New England scored the first 24 points against the New York Jets last Sunday before surviving 24-17. ''We have that kind of lead, we've got to really put the dagger in them and don't give them any hope that they can come back,'' Patriots linebacker Tully Banta-Cain said. ''If we're already playing good, play even better.''
The line on this game has the Patriots a 6.5 point home favorite with a total of 39 at SBG Global.
The Patriots ranked 24th in the NFL in rushing offense last season but are third this season with 165 yards per game. Veteran Corey Dillon has gained 153 yards on 36 carries, while rookie first-round draft pick Laurence Maroney has rushed 33 times for 151 yards. Tom Brady does not have his usual numbers this year though. He has thrown for 383 yards and three touchdowns, but has been intercepted twice. Last year's top two wide receivers, Deion Branch and David Givens are gone, and no other receiver has stepped up.
The quarterback position in Denver is a real problem as Jake Plummer's rating is a sickening 38.6 as he has thrown no touchdowns and four interceptions while completing only 51.8 percent of his pass attempts. The Broncos (1-1) have managed only 19 points in two games and are lucky to be 1-1. ''Everyone looks at the quarterback and thinks it is totally his fault and that is never true. You have to put a lot of that responsibility on the coaches and the supporting cast,'' Head coach Mike Shanahan said.
Although the Broncos and Patriots are in different divisions, they have faced each other quite a bit. Including the postseason, the teams have met 17 times in the last 20 years, with Denver winning 14 of those contests. Tom Brady is 1-4, including the playoffs, as a starter versus the Broncos and 69-17 against all other opponents.