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Preview: Broncos at Patriots

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  January 14, 2012 04:22 PM

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The Broncos are coming off a stellar 29-23 upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card last week with celebrated quarterback Tim Tebow throwing the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime to receiver Demaryius Thomas.

It's been non-stop Tebow talk ever since. He's currently the No. 10 trending item on Google.

The Patriots are coming into the game well rested but banged up with 13 players listed as questionable for today's game, including S Patrick Chung (knee), CB Kyle Arrington (foot), OT Marcus Cannon (ankle), C Dan Connolly (groin), LB Dane Fletcher (thumb), S James Ihedigbo (shoulder), LG Logan Mankins (knee), LB Rob Ninkovich (hip), WR Matthew Slater (shoulder), LB Brandon Spikes (knee), OT Sebastian Vollmer (back/foot), WR Wes Welker (knee) and LB Tracy White (abdomen).

Today's game is a rematch of Week 15's showdown in which the Patriots ended a six-game winning streak for the Broncos with a 41-23 win. The Patriots bounced back from a 16-7 deficit in that game, spurred by three turnovers from the Broncos. Aaron Hernandez recorded nine catches for 129 yards and a touchdown while Tom Brady threw for 320 yards and two scores.

Since 2002, when the Patriots moved to Gillette Stadium, the team has gone 7-2 in playoff games at home, losing the last two to the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens, a big motivator for the Patriots to do well today.

The Patriots come in as the No. 2 offense in the NFL after the regular season, racking up 428.0 yards per game. The Patriots put up 32.1 points per game, up against a Denver team that allows 357.8 yards per game (20th in the league) and 24.4 points per game (24th). Denver's offense was the No. 1 rushing team in the NFL during the regular season, pounding away for 164.5 yards per game. They're led on the ground by running back Willis McGahee, who finished the season with 1,199 yards. In the two teams' first meeting, the Broncos rushed for 167 yards in the first quarter (252 in the game). The Broncos ran for 131 yards against the Steelers last week. Tebow, also a potent running threat, ran for 660 yards this season, including 93 against the Patriots in Week 15.

Kickoff: 8 p.m.

Records: Patriots 13-3 (AFC East champions, No. 1 seed); Broncos 9-8 (AFC West champions, No. 4 seed).

TV/Radio info: WBZ-TV Ch. 4 (im Nantz, Phil Simms); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Gil Santos, Gino Cappelletti, Scott Zolak); Westwood One Radio Sports (Dave Sims, Jame Lofton, Hub Arkush).

Projected lineups:
Based on information distributed to the media, injuries and the immediate past game's lineups for each team.

Patriots offense: WR Wes Welker, LT Matt Light, LG Logan Mankins, C Ryan Wendell, RG Brian Waters, RT Nate Solder, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Deion Branch, QB Tom Brady, RB Stevan Ridley, TE Aaron Hernandez.

Patriots defense: LDE Shaun Ellis, DT Vince Wilfork, DT Kyle Love, RDE Mark Anderson, LB Ron Ninkovich, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Devin McCourty, CB Kyle Arrington, S James Ihedigbo, S Patrick Chung.

Broncos offense: WR Demaryius Thomas, LT Ryan Clady, LG Zane Beadles, C J.D. Walton, RG Russ Hochstein, RT Orlando Franklin, TE Daniel Fells, WR Eddie Royal, QB Tim Tebow, FB Austin Sylvester, RB Willis McGahee.

Broncos defense: DE Robert Ayers, NT Brodrick Bunkley, DT Marcus Thomas, DE Elvis Dumervil, LB Von Miller, LB Joe Mays, LB D.J. Williams, CB Champ Bailey, SS David Bruton, FS Quinton Carter, CB Andre Goodman.

Inactives

Patriots: QB Ryan Mallett, DB Nate Jones, RB Shane Vereen, LB Gary Guyton, OL Donald Thomas, RT Sebastian Vollmer, DL Ron Brace.

Broncos: WR Eric Decker (knee), LS Lonie Paxton (personal), S Brian Dawkins, LB Mike Mohamed, OT Ryan Harris, TE Julius Thomas, DE Derrick Harvey.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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