Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk and NBC Sports made his weekly appearance on Friday morning with Dennis, Callahan & Minihane guest hosts Butch Stearns and Chris Villani to preview Sunday’s Patriots-Broncos game and discuss other NFL news. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
The Patriots put their perfect record on the line Sunday night, with a lineup that is depleted due to some key injuries, looking to keep some distance between one of the challengers for the AFC’s top seed.
“It’s a big game,” Florio said. “And this Broncos team, we saw what they did to the Packers on a Sunday night when Green Bay was undefeated. It was one of the best games of the year for Peyton Manning. It’s easy to have a good game when your defense is suffocating — they held Aaron Rodgers to 77 yards passing, which is just incredible. Now they’re still missing DeMarcus Ware, but the rest of the defense largely [is] healthy. And Brock Osweiler [is] running that offense the way Gary Kubiak envisioned it. And Osweiler looked great against the Bears. The way the Bears played last night against the Packers I think makes that Broncos performance in Chicago in hindsight look even a little better.
“And even though Gary Kubiak has struggled against the Patriots during the time that he was the Texas head coach, Kubiak was the Ravens offensive coordinator in January when Baltimore twice had a 14-point lead in Foxboro [in the AFC playoffs]. And I think that no one would credibly argue that the Broncos team that Kubiak’s with now isn’t better than the Ravens team that played the Patriots. I think the only position where there would be a question is quarterback, with Osweiler vs. [Joe] Flacco. But Osweiler looked the part last week. If they keep him calm and keep him focused and make it as simple on him as they can — because you know Bill Belichick‘s going to do everything that he can to confuse Brock Osweiler — the Broncos can win this one.”
Should the Patriots improve to 11-0 Sunday night, Florio said the last two weeks could be the most likely opportunities for New England to lose.
“Those last two games, at the Jets, at the Dolphins, you’re talking about extra incentive for your division rivals — who may be in lost seasons at the time — to just try to put a feather in their cap before the end of the year,” Florio said. “The Jets have really faded, but they gave the Patriots everything they could handle when they came to Foxboro. And the Dolphins, Mercury Morris will probably go in there and have them all cranked up, because that’s the Dolphins’ chance to try to derail another shot at a completely perfect season — not just regular season but postseason as well.”
With the Patriots receiving corps hard hit by injuries of late, 41-year-old Terrell Owens has said he would be interested in a tryout. Florio said that’s highly unlikely.
“They’ve never called him before,” Florio said. “Now how old is he, 50? They’ve never called him before. They’re not going to call him now.”
The league’s other undefeated team, the Panthers, improved to 11-0 with a 33-14 rout of the Cowboys in a game many were predicting Carolina would lose.
“People just keep doubting the Panthers, and I don’t know when that’s going to stop,” Florio said. “And that plays right into the Panthers’ hands. If you’re going to be 11-0, you’d rather have people say, ‘Yeah, but …’ instead of, ‘Wow, you’re the greatest team we’ve ever seen.’ That’s the best way to keep your players honest, to keep a chip on their shoulders.
“So, the Panthers are for real. Their offense wasn’t as good on Thursday as it had been the prior Sunday against Washington, but they’ve found a way to get it done week in and week out. We’ve been talking all year about whether the Patriots can run the table, maybe it’s time to take a closer look at the last five games on Carolina’s schedule and ask whether or not they can do the same.”
For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.
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