Expert's Final Analysis For Patriots vs. Broncos AFC Title Game

Kevin Stott

Thursday, January 21, 2016 1:45 PM GMT

Let’s look at all the numbers, Series Trends &games between these two AFC and NFL giants and try to make a wise a NFL pick for what promises to be a great game.

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Predicted Final Score: Patriots 34  Broncos 23
NFL Picks: Patriots -3 , 1st Half Over 21½ , Over 44 & Patriots Team Total Over 23½ 
Game Prop Picks: Rob Gronkowski Anytime TD Scorer -150 & Julian Edelman Anytime TD Scorer +110 
Best Line Offered: at Bet365

 

New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos
So 39-year-old Peyton Manning is back in the saddle for the host and AFC’s top-seed and AFC West champion Denver Broncos (13-4 SU, 8-7-2 ATS) as they host Tom Brady the AFC’s #2 seed, AFC East champions and defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (13-4 SU, 8-6-3 ATS) on Sunday afternoon at Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Desso GrassMaster) in Denver (Partly Cloudy, 49°, Winds NNE 6-10 mph, Humidity 39%) in the AFC Championship Game. Current NFL Odds (Wednesday morning) see the visiting Patriots in a tight 3- to 3½-point (Sportsbook.ag, Bovada, TopBet.com, BetPhoenix, SIA, CarbonSports) range as the Road favorites with while the Total (Points) was also in a tight range with 44’s and 44½’s everywhere (Offshore, Online, Las Vegas, Europe) but seems to have moved up to 44½ almost everywhere in the marketplace, save for a few 44’s still out there (CG Technology). Sometime when writing these in-depth, hours-long assignments it boggles the mind how all (sportsbooks) can seemingly move their lines at once. Welcome to the Digital Age, Bubba. In the Money Line (Winner) marketplace, the Patriots are priced at -155 with the Home underdog Broncos priced at +145 on the takeback (at 5Dimes). The Denver Broncos Total Team Points is at 20½ (Ladbrokes) while the New England Patriots Total Team Points is at 23½ (Ladbrokes). The First Half Total is 21½ (Over -120, William Hill) while the 1st Half Point Spread sees New England favored by -2½ points (at William Hill).

 

Last 10 Final Scores Denver Broncos-New England Patriots Series
2015—@Broncos 30 Patriots 24 (NE -2½) Total Points Scored: 54 (Over, 43)
2014—@ Patriots 43 Broncos 21 (DEN -3) Total Points Scored: 64 (Over, 53)
2014—@ Broncos 26 Patriots 16 (DEN -5) Points Scored: 42 (Under, 57) (AFC Championship)
2013—@ Patriots 34 Broncos 31 OT (Pick ‘Em) Total Points Scored: 65 (Over, 53½)
2012—@ Patriots 31 Broncos 21 (NE -6) Total Points Scored: 52 (Over, 50½)
2012—@ Patriots 45 Broncos 10 (NE -14) Total Points Scored: 55 (Over, 51)
2011—Patriots 41 @ Broncos 23 (NE -7) Total Points Scored: 64 (Over, 47½)
2009—@ Broncos 20 Patriots 17 OT (NE -3) Points Scored: 37 (Under, 42) (Invesco at Mile High)
2008—@ Patriots 41 Broncos 7 (NE -3) Total Points Scored: 48 (Push, 48)
2006—Broncos 17 @ Patriots 7 (NE -6½) Total Points Scored: 24 (Under, 38½)
Thoughts On AFC Championship Game Total (Points)
Lowest Total in Market: 44 (CG Technology)
Highest Total in Market: 44½ 
Current Consensus Total in Market: 44½
Totals Trends, Thoughts: As you can see, the L10 meetings in this series has seen the Over do pretty well, going 6-3-1 in the L10 (7-3-1 ATS L11) and and an impressive 6 of the L7 with Total Points scored of 54, 64, 42 (Under), 65, 52, 55, and 64 in those meetings between these two AFC giants with the 2014 meeting in the AFC Championship game actually being the lone exception, going Under the closing Total (57) as the Broncos won, 26-16. The Altitude (5,280 feet above Sea Level) will surely have some effect on the Patriots here, maybe later in the game, but 16th-year Head Coach Bill Belichick and New England are probably going to pass 80-90% of the time on Offense anyway. And the Patriots just played here back in Week 12 so the visitors should be able to get their groove on when they have the football despite the site, the forecasted Weather—which will be temperate compared to past weekends and potential freezing conditions—and Brady and the New England Offense (#6, 5,991 yards, 374.4 ypg, 29.1 ppg) know that they’re going up against the league’s top Defense in Denver (#1 in NFL, 4,530 yards, 283.1 yards, 18.5 ppg) and will have to do everything right in terms of not losing the football (Patriots +7 TO Differential, #5 in NFL, Broncos -4, Tied for #19), getting 1st Downs and putting points on the scoreboard. And with former Broncos QB and 1st-year Head Coach Gary Kubiak and veteran Manning and the Home site, Denver (Offense #16 in NFL, 5,688 yards, 355.5 ypg, 24.3 ppg) should be able to find a way to score over 20 points in this situation, although anyone watching knows that the Broncos have really struggled in that regards, be it with Manning or backup Brock Osweiler at the helm.

Expect New England’s Defense (#9 in NFL, 5,431 yards, 374.4 yards, 19.7 ppg (Regular Season) to rise to the occasion although the defending champs will have to do so without the services of veteran LB Jerod Mayo (Shoulder) who played in the Patriots Divisional Round win over the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend but was placed on the Injured-Reserve list on Wednesday. In short, with this game of the rare do-or-die nature, the Weather not horrific, these two legendary future Hall of Fame QB’s under center, New England passing almost every play—either gaining yards or stopping the game clock—and an average of 5.6 ppg in the L7 meetings between these two, shopping around for the lowest Total (now 44, CG Technology) and betting it Over for a medium amount seems prudent. Trend-wise with the Totals, the Over is 11-4 in the L15 Patriots games on Grass (Sports Authority Field) and an impressive 57-27 against the AFC (67.9%) but the Under is 7-2-1 in the L10 Broncos Home games and 13-6-1 in Denver’s L20 games on Grass.

 

Why The New England Patriots Should Win 
The Patriots the Money Line at -155 (5Dimes) seems like a good value play in that you’re avoiding the possibility of losing your money should the Patriots win by either 1 or 2 (points) and you would Push (tie, get your money back) if they would end up winning by 3 if that’s the number you laid with the Road favorites. So, getting New England at that above market low (-155, 5Dimes) and betting this as if were an MLB game and a Pitcher’s duel seems safer than laying that 3 (or more if the Point Spread goes up New England’s way and it very well could). Here’s why the Patriots should find ways to outscore the Broncos in this monster game and try to continue this whole Dynasty thing...

1—The Quarterback Showdown: Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning. Even though Brady (4.770 yards, 36 TD passes, 7 Interceptions) is just 2-6 lifetime in Denver (0-2 in AFC Playoffs), the Michigan product is the guy you want leading your team in this situation and is in much better Physical Condition than is the Broncos 39-year-old Manning ( 2,249 yards, 9 TDs, 17 Interceptions) whose Arms and Legs are in considerably less better condition than they were at this time last season, as well as Brady’s. Denver QB Manning has thrown just 1 TD and an abysmal 8 Interceptions in 6 games (including Playoffs) at Sports Authority Field this season and Brady leads the all-time Brady-Manning series head-to-head, 11-5 although they are 2-2 since Uncle Peyton left Naptown for the Mile City and Papa John’s. This will be Brady’s 10th AFC Championship game (9-3 SU) and Tom Terrific always just seems to find a way to get things done when they need getting done. Manning is showing his age and there’s no doubt you will be thinking the same thing at some point in this game, watching on your HDTV on Sunday. He’s just not the same QB and hasn’t been all season.

2—The Patriots Receiving Corps. When healthy, the Patriots Danny Amendola (WR), Julian Edelman (WR) and Rob Gronkowski (TE) make up the best receiving threesome in the NFL and have for years, thus the Dynasty thing. Brady and Belichick and The System get much of the spotlight in New England, and rightfully so, but without Amendola, Edelman and Gronkowski—and now WR Brandon LaFell (37 receptions, 515 yards) to some small extent—there is none of this gridiron greatness. This is a team built on passing and this troika of reliable, sure-handed Receivers just get the job done. Just like Brady. Amendola (65 receptions, 648 yards, 3 TDs) is simply invaluable as that water bug-type (5-11, 190) receiver who finds open seams, always catches the ball and always moves forward low for more yardage. Smart stuff. Edelman (61 receptions, 692 yards, 7 TDs), back from an injury, is a real Good Luck Charm and New England is 10-0 this year when #11 plays and 3-4 when #11 doesn’t. And Gronkowski (72 receptions, 1,176 yards, 11 TDs)—also back from an injury but still injured (Knee, Back), in true Gronkowski form of course—is simply the best player in the NFL right now, hands down. Need a big catch? This 6-6, 265-pound TE who looks like he could be a star LB or Power Forward in the NBA is your man. Outside of the RB spot, New England has its Roster right where it wants it and the Patriots with a healthy Amendola (+250 Anytime TD Scorer, William Hill), Edelman (+110 Anytime TD Scorer, William Hill) and Gronkowski (-150 Anytime TD Scorer, Coral) are nearly impossible to cover no matter how good your D or Secondary.

3—Rob Gronkowski. You thought it was over? Wrong. Denver not having Rob Gronkowski, who snagged the Chiefs onsides kick attempt to end last weekend’s AFC Divisional Round game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on its Roster is a liability. One way or another the Patriots TE is going to come up with the big 1st Down or TD catch or catches in this game and there will be absolutely nothing Denver’s vaunted Defense will be able to do about it. He is the MVP in the NFL if the words “Most” and “Valuable” are uses in their proper context and applied to professional football players and has Barry Sanders, Lawrence Taylor, Ray Lewis type impact on his team and the game, yet seems to get lost in the Brady spotlight, the headlines and his own light-hearted, let’s have fun nature. Whatever it is Gronk’s doing, he shouldn’t stop.

4—Deflategate Rage. Yes, there still must still be some small fire burning in the bellies of Belichick and the Patriots from all that media coverage about PSI of Playoff footballs in a game they romped in. That game took some shine off their Super Bowl win last season, as did the suspect play calling of Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll, but they can get some of that well-deserved spotlight back by getting to and winning another NFL championship and that begins here by beating the Broncos in the Altitude of the Mile High City where more than than Rocky Mountains are now high.

5—Denver Drops. The Broncos Receiving Corps has QBs Manning and Osweiler no good of late, dropping more than their share of both easy and NFL-guys-should-catch-type harder passes. And they all have been guilty, from starting WRs Demaryius Thomas (+125 Anytime TD Scorer, Sky Bet) and Emmanuel Sanders (+150 Anytime TD Scorer, Sky Bet), TEs Owen Daniels (-300 Anytime TD Scorer, William Hill) and 49ers-signee veteran Vernon Davis (+550, William Hill) and the RBs also. And it honestly seems like much of the NFL has had a really bad case of “The Drops” this season. Thank god most of them are wearing gloves.

6—They're the better team. Better teams usually win games, no matter where or when.

 

Trends, How This AFC Championship Game in the Rocky Mountains May Evolve on Sunday Afternoon
There are several things going Denver’s way, besides the site here and automatically dismissing the hosts is irrational although my projected 34-23 (NE 4 TDs, 2 FGs, DEN 2 TDs, 3 FGs) final scoreline may seem irrational to many. The Broncos Defense ranks #1 in NFL (4,530 yards, 283.1 yards, 18.5 ppg in the Regular Season) and with all of that wonderful talent on the Defensive side of the ball including a killer LB corps in Von Miller (11 Sacks), Demarcus Ware, Brandon Marshall (76 tackles) and Kentucky product, Danny Trevathan (75 tackles) as well as studs like CB Chris Harris and CB Aqib Talib (3 Interceptions) in the Defensive Backfield, this team can hang with anyone, anywhere. And the last meeting (Week 12 win here in Denver) has to be good in many ways for Denver (NFL leading 52 sacks) and the Horses’ heads and whereas New England will have virtually no Rushing attack and be forced to be one-dimensional with RBs LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis both injured and Out, Denver has the speedy Ronnie Hillman (863 yards, 7 TDs) and the smart CJ Anderson (720 yards, 5 TDs) and can at least try to establish a running game and have someone to hand off or pitch to when inside the Patriots 5-yard-line. And then there's the 2-hour Time difference between EST (Massachusetts) and MST (Colorado) and being the first game of the day. But the Patriots underappreciated Defense may end up being the big player here, rising to the occasion and the 19.7 ppg allowed is impressive and a continued building on that Defense from last year’s NFL championship team. Trend-wise, New England (+225 to win Super Bowl, Bwin) is 3-11 in its L14 games played on Grass—maybe part of the reason Brady has struggled here (playing surface)—against the always dangerous Broncos (+409 to win Super Bowl, 10Red) who have always played with a lot of Heart, expect to win here at Home and have strong support from that entire region of the country, including maybe a million fans outside of the great state of Colorado where the legendary US writer Hunter S. Thompson lived out his last years and demanded that his Ashes shot from a cannon (along with Fireworks) into the glorious Colorado sky. A true American legend.

The Head Coaching and Confidence edge here have to go to Belichick and the Patriots who expect to be in this game annually. And you could see it on Uncle Bill’s face when he waved to the Gillette Stadium faithful after eliminating the Chiefs—he knew that would be the Patriots last game there and that Denver would likely win the following day, so just part of the process for the genius that is Bill Belichick, like him or not. Losing the # 1 seed may end up haunting New England and it may end up being everything for the Broncos, but it seems if there’s a scared team here, it’s Denver and not just because Manning has looked so different. The Broncos are the only team in the NFL Playoffs with a negative TO margin and this team was sort of lucky to have their schedule end with a beat-down Chargers team in Denver in Week 17 and Denver came close to not even making the Postseason. And they’re juggling QBs? Who juggles QBs like this and makes the Super Bowl? And to draw a beat-up Pittsburgh Steelers side (Roethlisberger, Brown, Bell, Williams, Pouncey) in the AFC Divisional Round? Charmed Life, baby. Backing the short completion, Nerfball/Arena Football possession style of play of the Patriots here seems like the logical way to go as putting your hard-earned money on an old QB showing signs of immobility and a poor arm who is throwing to a corps of Receivers who have been dropping the football of late? No thank you. I’ll have the Spam and Eggs. The Patriots should find their groove early on here with that quick, short Passing attack via Amendola, Edelman and Gronkowski, set the tone and show everyone why they’re always the team to beat in the NFL, like them or not.