Boomer Esiason of CBS Sports made his weekly Monday morning appearance on Dennis & Callahan to talk about the Patriots' 31-21 victory over the Broncos.
The Patriots offense was clicking for much of Sunday's game. Esiason said the running game has taken this offense to new levels.
"I see a Tom Brady who is so in sync with his offensive coordinator, and the ability to call the plays quickly, and has wide receivers that are getting themselves open and making big plays down the field," Esiason said. "You combine that with [Stevan] Ridley and [Brandon] Bolden and [Danny] Woodhead and [Shane] Vereen, now all of a sudden you've got yourself an explosive offense that is as balanced as any offense in football. … They are, from a competent standpoint, playing as competently offensively as they have ever played. And that's because of the balance that they bring to the table now."
There were some negatives Sunday, including a failure to convert on fourth-and-5 from the Denver 37 in the fourth quarter, as the Patriots allowed the Broncos an opportunity to get back in the game. Esiason questioned the decision to go for the first down there.
"In my estimation it was a 100 percent mistake," Esiason said. "Certainly after the fact, when the play doesn't work and then they have to give the ball to the Denver Broncos with good field position. Clearly, it was a mistake. This just doesn't make any sense as to why you would do what they did there. But in true Patriot fashion, somebody comes up with a play, somebody forces a fumble, and they go on to win it."
Added Esiason: "I love Bill Belichick, he knows more football than I will ever know, but in my estimation, the complete wrong call there, 100 percent wrong call there. If you don't believe you want to attempt a field goal and give them good field position, I get that. Just pooch punt it. Even if they just take it on the 20 and you make them go 80. Especially with the other quarterback on the other side."
Peyton Manning has played well in his return to the NFL, even if he isn't at 100 percent. Manning completed 31-of-44 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns and sparked a late comeback that ended when Willis McGahee fumbled away the ball at the New England 11 with 3:42 remaining.
"I will take an 80 percent healthy Peyton Manning over 90 percent of the quarterbacks in the NFL. That's how good he is," Esiason said. "I've always felt this about Peyton, especially when he plays the Patriots and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, that he's always had to significantly outplay Tom, because Tom is in a much more … consistent environment. He's got the better coaches, he's got the better players around him. Peyton Manning, this is his fifth game with a new team, with a new group of players. As well as he played yesterday, he wasn't the reason they lost. It was a few of his teammates who let him down."
Although the Broncos are 2-3, Esiason predicts they'll be playing in January.
"I've got to believe the they're going to get better as the season goes on, if you can believe that," he said. "I mean, offensively, they're as good as anybody in the league right now. But as they go on here, I do believe that they are the best team in the West. I do believe that they will be in the playoffs. And I would not be surprised to see Denver visiting New England in the first or second round of the playoffs."
Turning his attention to the Jets, Esiason said he'll be interested to see how Rex Ryan's crew performs against the Texans on Monday night.
"I think that their manhood and their pride have been challenged all week down here. And nobody, I mean nobody, especially Rex Ryan, likes that. I think it's the purest form of motivation, is when people are insulted and embarrassed. They'll give a tremendous effort tonight. … [But] the Jets don't have the horses to hang with the Houston Texans. They're one of the best teams in the league. When you lose two of your best players, Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis, that's a major, major problem for the New York Jets.
"Offensively, they don't have anything. They're a bunch of average players running around out there. Mark Sanchez, I believe they've ruined him as a quarterback right now. His confidence is just nowhere to be found. They may start off well tonight, but the more they play, the uglier it gets. And that just goes to show you just how far away they are in terms of personnel, and where they are as a franchise right now."