Here's a key matchup to watch in the divisional-round game between the Patriots and Broncos:
Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil and OLB Von Miller vs. Patriots OTs Matt Light, Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer
The Broncos' best weapon on defense will give them their best chance to upset the Pats in Foxborough on Saturday night. Miller and Dumervil form one of the league's elite pass-rushing duos. They combined for 21 sacks and 42 QB hits during the season.
Denver's pass rush took advantage of Ben Roethlisberger's bum ankle and Pittsburgh's shaky O-line in its wild-card win, totaling five sacks as a team and six QB hits, one sack apiece coming from Miller and Dumervil.
Both pass rushers get off the line quickly at the snap, and Patriots fans don't have to look far to see the punishment Dumervil can bring. In Week 15, Dumervil crushed Tom Brady for a fourth-quarter sack. ORT Nate Solder went inside and ORG Brian Waters didn't get outside to stop Dumervil in time — it appeared that Solder should have had Dumervil on the play.
But that was the only sack of the day for Dumervil, and Miller was shut out in the Patriots' 41-23 win in Denver.
Light has had a very solid season on the blind side. According to Stats LLC, he allowed three sacks in 15 games after allowing 10 last season. Solder, who started 13 games at right tackle, allowed four.
Vollmer has not played since Week 12, but he returned to practice on Tuesday. The Patriots are better off with Vollmer starting at right tackle, allowing Solder more snaps as an extra blocker.
The Broncos will want to get to Brady quickly. Last year's MVP winner has tremendous footwork and awareness in the pocket. Teams have rattled the Patriots' passing game when applying consistent pressure on Brady — but there's not a lot of time to get there.
If the Patriots' tackles can consistently win the first punch and keep Miller and Dumervil down, it will go a long way toward allowing Brady time to march downfield.
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