Free NFL Picks: Brady Gets Important Weapons Back In Rematch vs. Denver

Mark Lathrop

Thursday, January 21, 2016 1:41 PM GMT

Our NFL handicapper is red hot this week in all sports. Here he shares his thoughts on wagering the total of the upcoming AFC Championship game and makes his NFL Pick.

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NFL Pick: Over 44
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

 

It’s the AFC Championship Game, Brady vs. Manning 15 (or, close to it), and the winner advances to Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara. In a game that seemed inevitable to happen, the odds makers have instilled the Patriots as the field goal favorite. We are going to discuss the O/U total; however, which opened up at 44 at multiple books before getting bet up to 44.5 across the NFL odds board.

To be honest with you, I took the over in this matchup the picosecond that it became available for wagering. I was able to grab it at 44, which could still be had if you buy a half point at a book such as 5Dimes. I don’t think that it will be necessary though.

In the last seven matchups between these two teams only once has a game ended without the total score exceeding 44 points. That was the AFC Championship game in 2014, which put Denver’s historic offense on a path to be obliterated by the Seahawks in Super Bowl 48. Interestingly enough, that game went way under the listed total of 56.5 even after the Broncos put up 507 yards of total offense. Peyton Manning had 400 yards in that game as well, compared to just 256 yards for Tom Brady. Yards don’t matter much when the 26-16 score goes under the listed total, however.

There are some injuries to each squad, as is normally the case for NFL teams this late in the season. Most important for us is that almost all of the injuries are on the defensive side of the ball. The most important injury for scoring concerns for the Broncos is cornerback, Chris Harris Jr., who by all accounts will attempt to play with a limp appendage hanging off of his body (shoulder injury). Harris Jr. is likely to line up against the shifty Julian Edelman in coverage, which spells bad news for Denver’s ability to stop Tom Brady from picking them apart in the passing game.

The Patriots injuries on defense revolve around their linebacker corps to a great extent. Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins are all fighting nagging injuries and are expected to play, but neither is guaranteed to finish this game. These injuries play right into the strength of Denver’s offense, namely the running game behind Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson. The other significant injury for the Patriots is defensive end, Chandler Jones. If Jones is out the edge rushing rotation gets out of whack for the Patriots. This might not be an issue in any other place – except for the altitude of Denver. A weaker pass rush could give Peyton Manning more time in the pocket late in the game, when he is likely to be playing from behind.

You look at the last game these two teams played, which went over the total listed for this game, and what you really see is who was missing. Of course, the big name missing for the Broncos was Peyton Manning. In this game we will not only have Peyton back, but at the healthiest he has probably been all season. And then for the Patriots, their offense will enjoy the presence in this rematch of wide receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, not exactly cogs that are easily replaced by the next man up on the Patriots roster.

We are also getting lucky with the weather, which is forecast to be in the mid-40’s at game time with just a slight chance of precipitation. It should not be a factor in the game as far as scoring is concerned.

I know that the Denver defense is pretty good, especially against the run. But they won’t match up well with this version of the Patriots offense, who should have enough of a passing attack to put up 28 points. That should be enough to take this game well over the posted total and you should add that wager as one of your AFC Championship Picks.