Are you ready for Brady-Manning XV? The biggest marquee names in NFL betting will clash when the New England Patriots visit the Denver Broncos for the AFC title.
Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013-14, up to January 14 inclusive:
1-1 ML (+0.71 units)
Crank up the hype machines, folks. It’s Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (14-3 SU, 10-6-1 ATS) taking on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (13-4 SU, 9-8 ATS) this Sunday, with the AFC title and a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII on the line. Manning and Brady have met 14 times in the past, with Brady’s Patriots coming out ahead 10-4 SU and 7-5-2 ATS. So naturally, our consensus reports have 63 percent of bettors lining up behind New England, quickly driving the NFL spreads down from Denver –6 at home to Denver –4.5.
Bold ‘N Spicy
I promised you an update on the early NFL betting patterns from Vegas, and here they are: The initial action was heavily on the Patriots, and these NFL consensus reports suggests that the sharps and squares are both aligned behind Brady for this Sunday (3:00 p.m. ET, CBS). Our first expanded beta consensus report just came in, and heavens to Murgatroyd, New England is pulling in 98 percent of the money. You know what, italics aren’t enough. I said >>>98 PERCENT<<< of the money. The average bet size on the Pats is $469, compared to 14 bucks for Denver.
Well, all righty then. Apparently nobody particularly cares that the Patriots are 0-7 ATS in their last seven trips beyond the Divisional Round. Everything has boiled down to Brady vs. Manning, which isn’t even a real thing. Brady isn’t playing against Manning; he’s playing against the Broncos defense (No. 21 pass, No. 9 rush). Admittedly, it isn’t a good matchup for Denver, but you can say the same thing for Manning against the Patriots defense (No. 14 pass, No. 27 rush).
Don’t Harris Me
I also said I’d provide some injury updates, and here’s a big one: Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr. tore the ACL in his left knee during Denver’s Divisional Round victory over the San Diego Chargers. Denver was handling that game pretty well until Harris went down in the third quarter. The Chargers (+8 away) were down 17-0 going into the fourth before pulling off the matador cover in a 24-17 loss.
The Patriots also have yet another injury to worry about, although this one’s a bit more under the radar: Punter Ryan Allen hurt his shoulder during a botched snap against the Indianapolis Colts and had to leave the game. Results of his MRI were pending as we went to press, but you’ll probably know by now whether he’ll be available for Sunday. Otherwise, the Pats will presumably sign a veteran punter off the street (where they all live) rather than rely on place-kicker Stephen Gostkowski, although he did an admirable job with his five punts against Indianapolis.
And now, the weather: Sunny with temperatures in the mid-40s and almost no wind to speak of. An absolutely beautiful day, which should benefit the two offenses in this matchup. Denver’s offense (No. 1 pass, No. 10 rush) is one of the best ever, while New England’s offense (No. 7 pass, No. 6 rush) has managed to perform quite well despite the loss of so many of Brady’s usual targets. It’s been RB LeGarrette Blount (5.0 yards per carry) doing much of the damage lately, including 24 carries for 166 yards and four TDs against the Colts.
History says the Patriots struggle to cover this deep into the playoffs, and a sunny day at Mile High Stadium should help Manning more than Brady. I’m going to have to stick with the Broncos here, but just like in the NFC title game, I wouldn’t go too overboard with the size of my football bet in this case. I’d also wait a while, just in case the NFL lines move in my favor.NFL Pick: Take the Broncos –4.5 (+100) at Matchbook