1. If the forecast for chilly weather, rain, and wind holds up, what’s the sense you get for how that will affect Peyton Manning?
LJ: “If that forecast holds, it will be Manning’s first cold-weather game as a Bronco. Much was made externally last spring about Manning wanting to pick a new team based on climate, but clearly he didn’t care too much about it when he picked the Broncos, who don’t have their own indoor facility. Denver got its own dose of nasty weather this week, and Manning led the Broncos through two chilly, windy practices, so he won’t show up in Boston shocked by cool temperatures. The Broncos think they have a balanced offense, and should the conditions turn nasty on Sunday, that could mean Manning relies even more on Willis McGahee, who has been one of the best — if not the best — offensive players for the Broncos through four weeks. The question with the running game for Denver is with the offensive line, where they have replaced J.D. Walton with Dan Koppen [at center] and could be bringing back guard Chris Kuper this week, and with the (lack of) depth behind McGahee.”
2. Who is the one Broncos player most Patriots fans don’t know right now, but will by the end of the game on Sunday?
LJ: “The Broncos’ most consistent performers so far this year have been guys Pats fans know well — McGahee, Jacob Tamme, Brandon Stokley, and even Demaryius Thomas. For the Broncos to have a shot at winning this game, [linebacker] Von Miller will need to be a positive factor, and not the negative one he was the last time the Broncos were in Foxborough. In that game in January, the Broncos had no pass rush, and Miller’s biggest impact came when he incited a fight between the two teams late in the fourth quarter. Miller is waiting to have his breakout game of 2012.
3. What’s the biggest weakness on the Broncos offense you expect the Patriots to try to exploit?
LJ: “The Broncos have been turnover-prone in the first four weeks of the season — a bad thing to be against a very opportunistic New England defense. Peyton Manning will take chances, and that has gotten the Broncos into trouble in the past if he’s not exactly on target.”
4. What’s the biggest weakness on the Broncos defense you expect the Patriots to try to exploit?
LJ: “The Broncos have given up touchdowns to Heath Miller, Tony Gonzalez, and Owen Daniels this year, a sign that they *still* haven’t found a solution to slowing down top-end pass-catching tight ends. Gronkowski (and Hernandez) were so dominant against Denver last year, and if Hernandez does indeed sit out, that will help, but I still don’t think the Broncos have anyone who can match up well with Gronkowski. Look for safety Mike Adams and/or nickel linebacker Wesley Woodyard to draw that duty.”
5. Finally, Broncos win on Sunday if….
LJ: “Peyton Manning is error-free, if the Broncos’ pass rush can get to Tom Brady, and defense can force at least one turnover. Yes, those are a lot of ifs.”