Here's a key matchup to watch in the Week 15 game between the Patriots and Broncos:
Broncos OLBs Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil vs. Patriots OTs Matt Light, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon
For the fourth week in a row, the Patriots face a team with formidable edge rushers. As discussed often in this space, opponents want to apply pressure quickly to Tom Brady as a way to slow down the Patriots' passing attack, and earlier in the season, New England's pass protection was breaking down.
In the past three weeks, though, the O-line has stepped up, allowing only one sack in each game over that span. Those games came against the Jason Babin, Trent Cole and the Eagles, Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney and the Colts, and most recently Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and the Redskins.
This week, the Pats face the league's top rookie, Miller, and his veteran sidekick, Dumervil. The pair have combined for 19 sacks, 24 tackles for loss and 37 QB hits. Miller has forced two fumbles.
Light likely will match up with Dumervil, and the veteran tackle has played well this season. On the other side, assuming Sebastian Vollmer remains out with an injury, it will be a battle of rookies. Cannon enters the game at right tackle when Solder moves to tight end, so he would take snaps against Miller, but those likely would be running plays.
Miller is a relentless rusher who has the speed and strength to get past opposing tackles. Solder's athleticism should help him against Miller, but he will need to beat Miller's first step. Look for RBs Danny Woodhead and Kevin Faulk to help stay in and chip-block on third downs.
The Patriots' pass protection has been superb of late and it will need to continue to be so against Denver, a team that will want to keep Sunday's contest a low-scoring affair.