New England Patriots (2) at Denver Broncos (1)
Time: Sunday January 19th @ 12:00 PM Pacific
Location: Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO
Weather: 58° and sunny
Radio: Westwood One (Kevin Harlan, Dan Fouts, Tim Ryan)
TV: CBS (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms)
Spread: Broncos -5.5
State Your Case: New England Patriots
Matchup: Bill Belichick vs Jack Del Rio. The Patriots offensive gameplan against the Broncos will be the key to their success in this matchup. The Patriots this year have been able to succeed both running and passing the ball this year creating a balanced approach which has been difficult to defense. Broncos DB Chris Harris is out with an ACL injury which means the Broncos will be even more susceptible to being out-schemed. There is clearly a significant coaching advantage in this matchup as demonstrated in the second half of the Sunday Night matchup in late November.
Situation: Rarely is Tom Brady in a situation to play the nobody believes in us card, but he did just that earlier in the week claiming that ‘No one’s going to pick us‘. This Patriots team has proved resilient and found a way to win regardless of injuries or situation. Brady and Belichick have already cemented their legacy playing with house money this season and all the pressure is on Peyton Manning and Denver Broncos.
Stats: Late in the season it helps to have a 250lb running back like LeGarrette Blount getting hot. The Patriots have run for 643 yards in their past three games. Tough to imagine any QB losing, let alone Tom Brady when he’s getting over 200 yards a game in run support. Look for the Patriots to expose Quentin Jammer in the passing game, who hasn’t seen much action this year registering only 14 tackles. When the Broncos switch to Nickle D to help Jammer the Patriots will pound the rock with their efficient run game.
Donkey Trend: Patriots are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 Conference Championships games. None of these situations where they an underdog like this.
Sharp Trend: Peyton Manning is 6-10 against the Patriots who just seem to have his number. Peyton should consider playing for John Calipari because he’s about to go one and done.
State Your Case: Denver Broncos
Matchup: Most people would look to Peyton Manning vs Bill Belichick as the key matchup. Hard to argue with that but Im going to take a different route, Julius Thomas vs NE Linebackers and Safeties. NE has been killed by injuries all over the field especially in the linebacking core. The NE defense will almost certainly employ a defensive scheme that will encourage Manning to run into soft fronts, they will be very susceptible to the play action pass, enter Julius Thomas. Thomas didn’t play in the first matchup and has a rare size speed combo that will pose a serious threat to the middle seam route, one of Manning’s favs. Oh and by the way the Broncos also have 3 pro bowl wide receivers that the Patriots will have to deal with. Look for Manning to alter his legacy with a classic performance.
Situation: Revenge is a powerful motivator and Peyton and company were Tom Brady’ed once again week 12 in New England. You know what else grinds Peyton’s gears, the public perception that Brady owns Manning, oh wait he does(10-4 Head to Head). I believe that we will see the most focused Manning we have ever seen and I believe that he realizes that winning this game alters the legacies of himself and Brady. A win would put Manning in position to win 2 out of 3 Super Bowls with 5(He will win this year) MVPs, not too shabby. A win evens his head to head record against Brady to 2-2. Last but definitely not least a win shuts EVERYONE up.
Stats: I really think Peyton will be so locked in that it will a race to 40. The Broncos come into the game sporting arguably the greatest offense ever(#1 WEI Off DVOA) and certainly the greatest single season for a QB ever(Yards and TD records). Mean while the Patriots have the 24th ranked defense(WEI Def DVOA), which was 27th against the run(Def Run DVOA) and 14th against the pass(Def Pass DVOA). I think as I mentioned before the Patriots will try to keep the ball out of Manning’s hands by showing soft fronts, I look for Manning to shred the secondary with play action seam routes. Might be a good game to look for some over passing/receiving/rec props. *For more on DVOA check out the Football Outsiders
Donkey Trend: Any trend that focuses on the Broncos vs the Patriots before last year. Don’t care its Manning vs Brady, those other games weren’t.
Sharp Trend: Patriots 2-6 ATS this year on the road. They just aren’t a good road team…sorry.
Ryan’s Pick: Broncos -5.5(I would play it to -6.5).
Ryan’s Score: Broncos 34 – Patriots 24.
Ryan’s Bonus: Demaryius Thomas scores a TD YES -130.
Sean’s Pick: Over 55.5.
Sean’s Score: Broncos 35 – Patriots 31.
Sean’s Bonus: Longest field goal over 45.5.