US PresswireTom Brady (left) and Tim Tebow (right) are ready for a playoff showdown on Saturday night.
The Broncos, who won the AFC West despite a 8-8 record, are trying to become the first team in NFL history to win two playoff games after failing to finish with a winning record in the regular season.
The Patriots, who are seeking their first postseason win in nearly five years, are trying to beat a Broncos team that has given them trouble recently (despite their 41-23 win in Week 15). New England is 4-6 vs the Broncos since 2000, the only team it has a losing record against under Bill Belichick.
When Denver has the ball
Tebow had a coming-out party as a passer in the Wild Card Playoffs vs the Steelers. In becoming the first player in NFL history to average at least 30 yards per completion in a playoff game, Tebow really found his touch with the deep ball.
Stretching the field was a problem for Tebow during the Broncos' three-game losing streak to end the season, including a 2-for-5, 61-yard passing performance on throws 15-or-more yards downfield against the Patriots in Week 15.
Even if Tebow doesn’t have success going long against the Patriots, the Broncos should look to their ground game for offense regardless.
The Broncos are 6-1 with Tebow as starter when they rush on at least 55 percent of plays and 2-3 when rushing under 55 percent.
When New England has the ball
Tom Brady is 14-5 in 19 playoff starts, but has also lost his last three playoff games. With a loss, he would become only the fifth quarterback to lose four straight postseason starts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Brady and the Patriots targeted tight ends more than any other team this season, gaining a league-high 2,237 yards on those catches, and should find success against a Broncos defense that had trouble in coverage against tight ends. Denver allowed opposing tight ends to catch 72 percent of intended throws, the sixth-worst rate in the league.
The entire Patriots’ receiving corps has been hard to take down after the catch, averaging a NFL-best 6.5 yards after contact per catch. In Week 15 vs the Broncos, the Patriots receivers gained 200 of their 320 receiving yards after the catch, the second-highest total allowed by Denver this season.
This season Brady has thrived when facing extra pressure, compiling the second-best Total QBR in the league versus five-or-more rushers (78.7). He likely won’t be rattled facing a Broncos’ defense that blitzes at the third-highest rate in the NFL.
In Week 15 he torched the Broncos when they sent extra pass rushers, completing over 80 percent of his passes, a sign that Denver might want to consider being less aggressive against Brady on Saturday night.
Stat of the game
This is just the fifth game in postseason history between a team with a win percentage of at least .800 and a team without a winning record in the regular season. The team with the better regular season record has won each time.