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Nover: Pats Face Toughest Test of Year

There have been exceptions, but mostly Tom Brady has succeeded without being surrounded by superstars. New England and Brady have thrived due to Bill Belichick's system of developing role players to fit specific aspects.

That's been the case this season where the unbeaten Patriots rank first in passing yards, second in scoring and third in total yards.

But now the Patriots, Brady and Belichick face their toughest challenge of the season laying three points on the road against Denver in the Sunday night game. New England has been favored by seven or more points in each of its previous eight games.

Good Reason for Short Patriots Spread

There is good reason for such a short spread. The Patriots are traveling on a short week after playing Buffalo this past Monday night. They are taking on the best defense with Brandon LaFell and Chris Harper as their only healthy wide receivers. Julian Edelman is out with a broken foot. Aaron Dobson is gone with a high ankle sprain. Danny Amendola won't suit up due to a sprained knee. Keshawn Martin is dealing with a hamstring injury.

New England also is without tailback Dion Lewis and is thin in the offensive line because of injuries. Put all of this together and Brady is going to be severely challenged especially against a Denver defense that gives up the fewest yards per game and leads in sacks with 34. The weather conditions aren't suitable either for a passing attack with temperatures expected to be around 15 degrees and a 60 percent chance of snow.

Cracks Starting to Show With Patriots

The Patriots were fortunate to beat the Giants two weeks ago, winning 27-26. The Giants were in position to secure a victory, but failed. The Bills held Brady to his lowest completions of the season and the Patriots to their lowest point total this past Monday in a 20-13 defeat.

So cracks are showing with the Patriots. Their numerous injuries on offense are taking a toll. With Amendola not playing the Patriots won't have an active wide receiver with more than 17 receptions.

The situation sets up well for Denver. It's a testament to the greatness and mystique of Belichick and Brady that the Patriots are even favored.