New England Patriots at Denver Broncos Point Spread
Point Spread Line: Denver -5.5
New England crushed Indianapolis 43-22 last Saturday. Denver eased past San Diego 24-17 last Sunday. The Patriots rallied from a 24-0 deficit in Week 12 to defeat the Broncos 34-31 in OT.
New England's offense has produced 643 rushing yards in their last three games and it is clearly the focus of their game plan. RB LeGarrette Blount has been excellent during this stretch and ran for 166 yards and four TDs last week. However, that was against the sieve-like 3-4 defense of the Colts, who don't have the personnel to play that type of defense. Denver is different as they ranked 7th in run defense this season, yielding 101.6 yards per game. With the dearth of talent at wideout for New England, we expect the Broncos to focus on stopping the run and force QB Tom Brady to the air. That would seem like a poor strategy but Brady lacks consistent weapons, other than WRs Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Denver's pass defense is far from elite so look for them to rotate their coverages toward these two receivers. Both are small and quick and the Broncos should be physical with them at the line of scrimmage. They also have to pressure Brady and make him feel uncomfortable. The absence of OLB Von Miller (IR) hurts but both teams are missing key players. OLB Shaun Phillips had a good game last week and should be able to get to Brady. More importantly is to get a push up the middle as Brady has historically had trouble with inside pressure (see NY Giants).
Denver's offense was kept in check again last week by the Chargers but they couldn't stop QB Peyton Manning when it counted late in the game. The record-setting signalcaller had his worst statistical game of the season in the first encounter with the Pats and knows he has to play very well this week to get the win. New England's defense is missing some key players but they haven't collapsed. Rookie OLB Jamie Collins had a big game against Indy but is facing a real veteran this week. The Patriots got a lot of mileage out of roughing up the smallish receivers of the Colts last week, a strategy that served them well in Manning's early tenure in Indianapolis. However, the Broncos don't feature sprites on the outside in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker (both 6'3”) or on the inside in TE Julius Thomas (6'5”). WR Wes Welker is small but makes up for it in quickness. D. Thomas, Decker and Welker combined for nine catches and 77 yards in the first game and that won't get it done this week. Expect this trio to seriously up those totals against a secondary minus star players other than CB Aqib Talib. RB Knowshon Moreno ran for a career-high 224 yards in the first meeting but part of that was because the Broncos went into safe mode, a strategy that cost them the game. Moreno and rookie RB Montee Ball will get their chances again against a defense with a very young front seven.
Point Spread Pick
Brady is 10-4 against Manning during their career but we see a different outcome this week. While New England finished the year 9-0 at home, they were only 4-4 on the road. Denver's only home loss was to San Diego and they avenged that last week. While both teams figure to score, we feel Denver has a more diversified attack. The Patriots have run the ball extremely well over the past three weeks but we feel the Broncos can hold up and not become the hit-and-run victims the Colts were last week. Manning knows that the pedal can't be lifted against this team and if Denver gets an early lead, look for them to try to build on it rather than turn conservative.
Our Crew's Pick: Take the Denver Broncos -5.5 at GtBets and get yourself a 100% bonus on your first deposit!