Late NFL Picks For Patriots vs. Broncos: Last Minute Odds Worth Playing

Ted Sevransky

Saturday, January 23, 2016 6:12 PM GMT

Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016 6:12 PM GMT

It's the final game before the Super Bowl, both teams looking to shine, as the New England Patriots visit the Denver Broncos, who will make it to the be our sharp NFL pick on Sunday?

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NFL Pick: Under 44.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

 

New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos
The Broncos defense is great.  Denver won three games this year when they trailed by at least two touchdowns because this stop unit got stops – lots of stops – with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.

Denver beat Baltimore in Week 1 on an Aqib Talib pick six. They beat KC in Week 2 on a Bradley Roby fumble return touchdown with 27 seconds left in the fourth quarter. In Week 3, the Broncos defense forced a fumble and an interception on back-2-back fourth quarter possessions in Detroit, then closed out the game with a late stand in the red zone, turning a two point lead into a 12 point win. The defense forced a fumble on the Vikings potential game winning drive in Week 4, sealing the victory.

Nothing really changed in that regard over the back half of the season. The Broncos were below the league average on a ‘yards per play’ basis on offense all year; an offense that can be accurately described as ‘mediocre on a good day’. But their defense has been and remains the single best stop unit in the NFL this year, allowing only 4.4 yards per play. The #2 defenses – Seattle and Carolina – were both at 4.9 yards per play; not even close.

Denver’s defense is the reason this game is being played in the Mile High air, not in Foxboro. When the Patriots visited here in Week 12, they led by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter before a muffed punt led to a late Broncos rally and eventual win in overtime. But Denver’s defense was dominant when it mattered most, forcing four punts while allowing only a single field goal on the Patriots last five drives.

Of course, the Patriots didn’t have Julian Edelman or Danny Amendola for that game, and Rob Gronkowski was carted off the field. But Denver’s defensive dominance has come consistently all year, even against the better offenses that they’ve faced, just as we saw last week in their shutdown effort against the Steelers.

The Broncos defense is elite. Their offense is not. Against a mediocre Steelers defense last week, the Broncos started three of their first five drives in Steelers territory. They came away with six points on two field goals. In fact, only two drives all day gained more than 40 yards, fairly typical of recent Denver efforts both with and without Manning behind center.

The January 2016 version of Peyton Manning is a long, long way from Manning in his prime. He enters the AFC Championship Game with a 1-8 TD-INT ratio at home this year, including the postseason, and that’s no misprint – just ONE single TD pass at home all year!  Manning didn’t have much in his return to the starting lineup last week, gaining just 5.7 yards per pass attempt.  A relatively healthy Patriots secondary is primed to shut this passing game down

And the Broncos running game behind their mediocre (at best) offensive line isn’t capable of controlling the flow either. CJ Anderson broke one 34 yard run last week against the Steelers. The other  30 carries from their backs netted 76 yards, barely 2.5 yards per carry. The Patriots defense should have both Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins back on the field this week. With a chance of a wintry mix falling during the game, expect a relatively low scoring affair. Take Under as your NFL Pick.

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