QB Tom Brady
Denver does a decent job of getting after the quarterback, but the back end of their defense isn’t elite. The Broncos have played against two top-shelf quarterbacks so far this year. Matt Ryan threw for 220 and 2, and Roethlisberger put up 245 and 2. I think Brady will end up slightly higher than those two, but not much. I’d bank on 290 and two scores.
WRs Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch
Opposing receivers have fared pretty well against Denver so far this week, and it appears Welker is rounding back into form. He’s a safe bet for 6-7 catches and 90 yards. Lloyd was quiet last week before busting off a long score, but I think he’ll be more heavily involved against his old teammates. Look for him to get loose for one long score to go with 5 catches and 80 yards. And if you’re truly desperate, #3 WRs have averaged close to 40 yards per game against Denver this year. I think Branch could be close to that mark as well.
RBs Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden
The Broncos have been fairly stout against the run (3.4 ypc, 1 rushing TD allowed), but the one time they faced a great running team in Houston, they were gashed for 152 yards. I think Ridley is a good bet to top 100 yards and get the ball over the stripe once. Bolden is a bit trickier this week. While the Pats will rely on the run to shorten the game, I don’t think Bolden is a lock for double-digit carries again. Given the situation, I would sit him this week.
TEs Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez
Gronk is a bit banged up right now, but this matchup is still spectacular. The Broncos have allowed three TEs to score in the first four weeks, and two have topped 50 yards. You can pencil him in for 80 and a spike, with a strong possibility for more. Hernandez is not expected to play this week, but it is worth noting that he was back at practice. That is a positive sign.
New England Defense/Special Teams
The Pats D will have more than their fair share of stellar weeks, but I don’t think this matchup bodes well for them. The Broncos should try to exploit the secondary, and I think Denver WRs should be able to find room to maneuver. The Broncos have allowed an average of 2 sacks per game and haven’t scored fewer than 21. Unless a certain hooded mastermind has identified some serious flaw in Manning’s game that the rest of the league hasn’t nailed down yet, I think that streak will continue. There are better options on the waiver wire than the likely 24 points, 2 sacks and 1 turnover you’ll get this week.