Who you got in a fight between the Patriots’ Tom Brady and Broncos’ Aqib Talib?
Kiz: I’m anxiously awaiting the steel-cage match between Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib and Dirty Harry Douglas of Tennessee after the NFL season is over. Stop by for brats and beer at my house if the bout is on pay-per-view. But the Broncos are fighting for their playoff lives right now. Talib and the Denver secondary must find a way to slow down ageless New England quarterback Tom Brady. Who has the advantage?
Jhabvala: You got me all excited for beer and brats and now you want me to answer seriously? I’m picking the Broncos’ secondary. They defeated the Patriots twice last season (including the AFC title game) and held him to fewer than 300 yards in each outing while deflecting 16 total passes and intercepting two. It can be done again. The bigger issue will be the Broncos’ run defense, which held New England to 39 and 44 yards in those two games. The run defense has been leaky all season and will be without both starting inside linebackers, Todd Davis (oblique) and Brandon Marshall (hamstring).
Kiz: I admit it. I was late to the party toasting Brady as one of the top five quarterbacks of all time. Hey, I do not feel the need to apologize for admiring Joe Montana, Otto Graham and Johnny Unitas. But, at age 39, Brady is playing like the MVP, and if he wins his fifth Super Bowl ring with Julian Edelman and a bunch of guys named Who’s That? as receivers, then here’s a QB that can obviously beat anybody, anywhere, anytime. Jhabvala: Brady is defying the human aging process. But he doesn’t play well in Denver (2-7 including playoffs), and he’ll be facing the Broncos on a short week, following the Patriots’ Monday night win over the Ravens. Throw in the loss of Rob Gronkowski and the Broncos have as good a shot as they’ll ever have at containing New England’s offense.
Kiz: The Broncos beat Brady not once, but twice, last season, allowing Brady to complete only 51 percent of his 98 passes, sacking him seven times, intercepting him twice and holding his QB rating to 74.8, which is Paxton Lynch territory. This time the edge should belong to Brady, right? But the Patriots will travel after playing on Monday, and that short work week should benefit Denver. If my man Talib and his buddies can pick off Brady two times, I give the Broncos better than a 50-50 chance to win.
Jhabvala: His buddies being Von Miller and the defensive line. Last year, the Broncos’ defense had those seven sacks plus 26 hits on Brady in their two meetings combined. In the AFC championship, when the Broncos hit him 20 times, Brady faced pressure on more than 45 percent of his 61 dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. With an unreliable offense, that pressure from the Broncos’ defense will again be crucial.
Patriots QB Tom Brady, yelling as he runs onto the field before Monday night’s 3023 win over the Ravens, faces the Broncos on Sunday.