The Denver Broncos are set to host a significantly weakened New England Patriots team on Christmas Eve. Just a day after listing tight end Hunter Henry and offensive tackle Conor McDermott as questionable for the match against the Denver Broncos, reports indicate that both players have been ruled out by the Patriots.

According to NFL insider Ian Rapoport, via Twitter, “Patriots OL Conor McDermott and TE Hunter Henry have been downgraded to out against the Broncos.”

This development is a significant setback for the Patriots as Henry leads the team in touchdowns and ranks second in receiving yards, while McDermott’s absence will impact the team’s offensive line depth. Additionally, the Patriots had already sidelined two offensive starters, running back Rhamondre Stevenson and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

The Broncos might benefit from this situation, especially considering their recent struggles in defending against tight ends and the middle of the field, where Henry would have posed a notable threat. However, the injury bug has eliminated that threat for the Patriots.

The Patriots’ injury concerns extend beyond the offense, with three of their top-five tacklers potentially missing the upcoming game. Safety Jabrill Peppers is already ruled out, while linebackers Ja’Wuan Bentley and Jahlani Tavai are listed as questionable. Although it’s likely that Bentley or Tavai will play, the Patriots’ defense will still face challenges against the Broncos, especially considering the combined tackles contributed by these players.

This situation might make the Patriots’ usually staunch rushing defense more vulnerable to the Broncos’ ground game. Broncos head coach Sean Payton may test the Patriots’ rushing defense but should also have alternative strategies in place, considering Belichick’s reputation for neutralizing opponents’ strengths.

While the Broncos’ Courtland Sutton leads in receiving yards and touchdowns, the team might explore other options given Belichick’s tactics. Russell Wilson might look beyond Sutton, especially with Jerry Jeudy’s ability to get open quickly and the explosiveness of rookie Marvin Mims Jr.

The Broncos should remain cautious, knowing that Belichick, when challenged, can make strategic adjustments that could pose a threat despite the Patriots’ injury woes.

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