As the Broncos prepare to play the Patriots on Sunday, we're going straight to the source to get an opposing perspective on this Week 6 matchup. On Tuesday, Patriots.com team reporter Megan O'Brien shared some of her thoughts on the upcoming matchup with us forthe most recent episode of "The Snap" podcast.
If Cam Newton can't go on Sunday, who do you think will start — Stidham or Hoyer?
MOB: "That's tough, because before the Patriots signed Cam Newton in July, everyone in New England around the media was convinced that Jarrett Stidham was going to be the next guy. Suddenly, Cam Newton is signed and the talks of that with Stidham died down a bit. Then there was a moment in training camp where Jarrett Stidham had reportedly taken a visit to the local hospital due to an injury. All the tests came back fine, but the day after that, things switched a little bit. Reps were divvied up differently. Cam Newton started getting more reps, Brian Hoyer started getting more reps. And it was clear that Stidham was sort of the No. 3 quarterback. And for the first two weeks of the NFL season, Stidham wasn't active. Brian Hoyer started against Kansas City and things didn't go so well, but things didn't really go well for Stidham either. So I think the coaching staff would have a very difficult decision to make because Brian Hoyer has the experience, and the chance of him making those significant mistakes again, I would say, are slim to none. But I do think Stidham has the higher ceiling. So if I were in that position, I would like to see what Stidham can do, given that he has the higher ceiling. We all know what Brian Hoyer can do; he's been in this league for a while. I'd like to see what Stidham can do. But at the same time, the experience of Hoyer can't be overstated. It wouldn't surprise me if the coaching staff opted to give Hoyer another go."
What's the difference on offense now with Cam Newton at QB instead of Tom Brady?
MOB: "Tom Brady wasn't really known for his ability to run the football; Cam Newton on the other hand, he can do that. But there's something different about this team and when it comes to Tom; he earned all of the respect of his teammates, was a great leader in the locker room for two decades in New England and the success speaks for itself. But it seems like these players are very close with Cam. He has a nickname for each player. He has a handshake for each player. He hugs each offensive lineman individually before they go play. That's not saying Tom Brady didn't have great relationships with his teammates. He did, but it seems different with Cam, and they seem more unified, and that's been interesting to watch. And then just the threat to run. You didn't have that with Brady under center. You had a lot of other really great things with Brady under center, but you never had to worry about defending Brady, the runner. With Cam, it adds a different element to the roster."
If Stephon Gilmore can't play on Sunday, how different do you think this Patriots secondary is going to be without him?
MOB: "That's the most stacked position on the team. They have a tremendous amount of depth in the secondary with Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams. They have a lot of different guys who can fill in there. Obviously none of them are Gilmore — he was the reigning Defensive Player of the Year — but his season got off to a little bit of a slow start. He had three sloppy pass interference calls, and for the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, you can't have that. That's not acceptable and Stephon Gilmore knew it. The defense is the Patriots' strength, but it all starts with Gilmore. I do think that is a position where they have some depth and if Gilmore is not on the field — in an ideal situation, you want him on the field, he's such a talented player — but I don't think it really impacts the way the Patriots play defense that much."
What's something about the Patriots team as a whole that the Broncos should be concerned about heading into Sunday?
MOB: "I think it's the defense. You saw against Kansas City just what this defense is able to do and how they're able to capitalize off another team's mistakes. Whenever a team goes up against Coach Belichick, he's always trying to take one thing away, and I imagine one thing that he is trying to take away from the Broncos is the run with Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay expected to return to play against the Patriots. I think the Broncos have a really strong running game, and given the uncertainty at quarterback, I think Belichick will try to make the Broncos throw the ball to beat the Patriots and make them play against this deep New England secondary. I think the defense presents a lot of problems to other teams. And the other thing with the Patriots — I know everyone says, 'When we saw Cam Newton at quarterback, we saw three different kinds of offenses.' Really, we saw a team that is a run-first team, and that's what they're always going to be. And when they can run the ball, they'll have a lot of success on offense because it opens up other areas of the game."