Some might say that all good things have to come to an end sooner or later, but the two-time defending champion New England Patriots (11-6 straight up, 9-8 against the spread) aren’t going lightly. Bill Belichick and his troops are still looking to become the first team in the NFL to win the Super Bowl three consecutive years in a row and the road to Detroit continues Saturday.

Denver (13-3 SU, 11-4 ATS) and New England square off from Invesco Field at Mile High in a primetime battle. Kickoff is slated for 8:00 p.m. EST, with CBS providing national coverage. No precipitation is forecasted for this game according to our weather reports, with temperatures between the forties and fifties.

This will be the first home playoff game for the Broncos since 1998, when John Elway led his team in the AFC Championship past the N.Y. Jets, 23-10. Then, Elway did his magic again by helping Denver dominate Atlanta 34-19 in Super Bowl XXXIII.

Surprisingly, head coach Mike Shanahan and company haven’t won a playoff game since this triumph, going 0-3 both SU and ATS in the last three postseason tilts. None of the setbacks have been close, with all the games ending in double-digit defeats.

Oddsmakers opened Denver as a 3 ½-point home favorite, with the total listed at 44. As of Thursday, the half-point has been removed, while the total remains steady.

Denver has won and covered three of the last four meeting against New England, including an earlier meeting this year in Week 6. The Patriots will be looking to avenge a 28-20 loss to Denver on Oct. 16 as 3 1/2-point road underdog. The combined 48 points slipped ‘over’ the closing total of 47.

The Broncos led 28-3 in this game before the Pats’ rally came up short late in the game. To New England’s defense, the team was playing its fourth road contest in the last five games and injuries were a plenty. The Pats were without running back Corey Dillon, wide out Troy Brown and defensive starters Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour.

Bruschi (calf) is listed as “questionable” for this week, while a handful of players are listed as “probable” according to our injury report.

New England earned a trip to the Divisional Playoffs after handling Jacksonville 28-3 as an eight-point home favorite last Saturday. The combined 31 points fell ‘under’ the closing total of 37 1/2. The Pats only led 7-3 at the break, but used a 21-point scoring spree in the second half for the first-round victory.

Tom Brady completed 15-of-27 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns, including a 63-yard strike to Ben Watson. The tight end scampered down the sidelines and broke numerous tackles en route to what proved to be the final nail in the coffin.

The Patriots’ defense was the strength in last week’s victory against the Jags, holding them to 292 YPG. Also, the club racked up six sacks, including 4 ½ by defensive end Willie McGinest.

Belichick’s offensive and defensive units both get a much stiffer test this week, as Denver owns the second ranked running game (158 YPG), plus the No. 2 run defense (85.2 YPG) in the league as well.


The duo of Mike Anderson (1,014 yards, 12 TDs) and Tatum Bell (921 yards, 8 TDs) has been tough to stop this year on the ground.

Shanahan’s passing game is only averaging 20.8 PPG, but quarterback Jake Plummer is having one of his best seasons. The Snake has completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,366 yards and 18 TD with only seven picks. Wide receivers Rod Smith led the team with receptions (85), yards (1,105) and touchdowns (6).

Jake Plummer is just 1-3 in his only four playoff contests, while his counterpart Brady is a perfect 10-0 in the postseason. Only two of the 10 victories have come on the road, including last year’s AFC Championship win at Pittsburgh, 41-27. On another angle, Brady has only beaten Denver once (1-3) in his career.

Denver is one of two teams (Seattle) to go unbeaten at home this year, with a perfect 8-0 mark. The Broncos were 5-2-1 ATS from Invesco Field at Mile High, outscoring opponents by an average of 14 PPG (26-12).

New England is 5-3 both SU and ATS on the road this year, including the aforementioned loss to Denver earlier in the year.

The Broncos will have been off for 14 days prior to this game after earning a first-round bye. The week of rest has treated Denver well since it was instituted into the NFL. This squad is 18-5 SU and 17-6 ATS when coming off the bye, including a 31-17 thrashing of Oakland this season as a three-point road favorite.

The winner of this contest will travel to Indianapolis next Sunday or host Pittsburgh if the Steelers unseat the Colts.