The Denver Broncos will be without two of their key roleplayers on offense and defense in Sunday’s Christmas Eve showdown against the New England Patriots. What will the Bronco’s contingency plan be for those positions?

Denver Broncos rule out Nik Bonitto, Greg Dulcich for Sunday’s game

The Broncos will be without outside linebacker Nik Bonitto and tight end Greg Dulcich for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots.

Bonitto will miss his second straight game after suffering a knee injury against the Los Angeles Chargers in the Broncos win two weeks ago. He is expected to return at some point this season as he battles his way back from an MCL injury.

This week, Bonitto spent time on the team’s side field working with athletic staff. The fact that he was carted off two weeks ago and his season hasn’t ended is an important thing to monitor.

As it pertains to Sunday’s game, who should Broncos fans expect to step up at outside linebacker with Bonitto out of the rotation this week? Continue keeping an eye on rookie Drew Sanders, who has gotten more and more comfortable since transitioning from inside linebacker to the outside edge.

Because the Broncos will be more focused on trying to prohibit Bailey Zappe and the Patriots’ passing game, one likely roster move could see the team elevate outside linebacker Ronnie Perkins to the active roster on gameday from the practice squad.

If that’s the case, Perkins and Sanders will make up part of Denver’s personnel in certain pass rush packages.

With Dulcich still out, Denver will continue to force-feed looks to athletic tight end Lucas Krull. Krull has carved out a nice role for himself inside of Payton’s offense, and while the results haven’t been visible yet from a production standpoint, the vision for how Payton would use him or Dulcich is on display, and Sunday’s game could pay dividends for him.

The only other Broncos player ruled out for Sunday’s game is undrafted rookie free agent Alex Palczewski who was recently designated to return from injured reserve.

Patriots will be without several key weapons vs. Broncos

Following Friday’s practice, the New England Patriots have already ruled out several of their key players for Sunday’s game, with a variety of players also being listed as questionable.

Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson was officially ruled out after missing practice all week due to a high ankle sprain. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was downgraded to out after being limited during Wednesday and Thursday’s practice, and missing Friday’s practice.

That eliminates a potential receiving threat for Zappe to try and connect with on Sunday.

Patriots safety Jabrill Peppers was ruled out after missing practice all week with a hamstring injury. His absence will have an impact in the Patriots backend secondary and hurt them in their run defense department.

This could provide Russell Wilson and Denver’s offense with the opportunity to try and air it out on Sunday.

There are nine total Patriots players listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

  • Defensive lineman Christian Barmore – shoulder.
  • Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley – knee.
  • Offensive tackle Trent Brown – ankle/hand.
  • Tight end Hunter Henry – knee.
  • Linebacker Anfernee Jenkins – illness.
  • Cornerback Jonathan Jones – knee.
  • Offensive tackle Conor McDermott – concussion.
  • Special teams ace Matthew Slater – hamstring.
  • Linebacker Jahlani Tavai – ankle.

If New England is without a handful of these players on Sunday, it amplifies the Broncos’ chances to capitalize on areas where they’ve been weaker this season. The Patriots’ run defense is their best strength, which could be impacted if several of these players miss.

The Broncos will kick things off against the Patriots on Sunday Night at Empower Field at Mile High at 6:15 p.m. MT on NFL Network.