Over the past five seasons, every time the Patriots play the Broncos it has had a huge impact on the postseason race for both teams. This year will be no different.
The defending Super Bowl champions are in a must-win situation this Sunday when they face the red-hot New England Patriots, and with their playoff fate hanging in the balance, this game is important for the Denver Broncos if they want to entertain any hopes of defending their crown.
According to SB Nation, the Patriots enter this game as the favorite, which suits the Broncos just fine. Denver is 6-1 straight up and against the spread in their last seven games at home against the New England Patriots. Add to that, the Broncos will be looking to beat New England for the third straight time this Sunday, and Denver is hoping their magic against New England continues this weekend.
Heading into this game, the Broncos are currently holding the sixth seed in the AFC playoff standings. At 8-5, Denver holds the tie-breaker over the Miami Dolphins who are also 8-5, however, a loss to New England will be damaging to the Broncos who currently hold a slim one-game lead for the final playoff spot over Miami, Baltimore, and Tennessee.
The New England Patriots, on the other hand, will be in the playoffs for sure, the only question is can they hold off the surprising Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs for the number one seed in the AFC. At 11-2, the Patriots enter the game with the best record in the AFC and are tied for the top spot overall in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys.
While New England has been in cruise control compared to Denver so far this season, the Patriots won't be taking the Broncos for granted this Sunday. These two teams have met 13 times in the past 12 years, which is a lot for teams that aren't in the same division.
Of those 13 match-ups, four of those meetings came in the postseason, including last season's AFC Championship classic. No matter what the records are, when these two meet up, it is usually a barn burner; however, Denver's lack of offensive production could be a big problem if the Patriots jump on top early.
The good news for the Broncos is the final portion of their schedule is against teams that are ahead of them in the playoff race -- so if they can win, they are in. The bad news is if they can't get the offense in gear, the next three games could get ugly.
After playing New England this Sunday, Denver will face the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs on Christmas night. If that isn't tough enough, the season finale is a New Year's Day clash against the Oakland Raiders. Yes, it is pretty safe to say that the Broncos have the toughest remaining schedule in the entire NFL.
Denver's T.J. Ward doesn't care who they have to play down the stretch, he just knows that if they can win two of the last three games, they will most likely be playoff bound.
"I don't care who we play," Broncos safety T.J. Ward said. "We need to win these next three games. We've been in some tough games and come out on top, and we've been on the bottom of some tough games. We've played two of the teams already (the Chiefs and Raiders). One game was close. One was not. Divisional games are always tough. The Patriots are almost a divisional game.... It's another great challenge with Brady coming up."
Beating Tom Brady and the Patriots multiple times in a row does not happen often, and the Broncos have won two in a row and three of the last four in this series. That stops Sunday. New England heads into Mile High and gets the big road win.
Pick - New England -3
Fans can catch all of the action for this big game nationally on CBS. The game will also be streaming live online through NFL.com and for Verizon Wireless paid subscribers. If you don't have a subscription, you can watch this key game and every game this weekend live online for free by signing up for NFL.com's free seven-day trial, just click here for all of the information. Game time is scheduled for 4:25 p.m. ET.
[Featured Image by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images]