The Denver Broncos advanced by upsetting Pittsburgh 29-23 in overtime last week, and the myth of Tim Tebow was kept alive as he passed for 316 yards in his first playoff game, more yards than he has passed for in any regular season game in his brief career.
Tebow still completed only 10 passes in 21 attempts though vs. a Pittsburgh defense that stuffed the box, leaving man coverage in the secondary all game.
The New England Patriots are the top seeds in the AFC and thus watched that game on television. This is a rematch of a regular season game won by the Patriots 41-23 in Denver.
The Patriots are now big (-13½) favorites at home, with the total set at 50½.
ODDS: OPEN: PATRIOTS -14 | CURRENT: PATRIOTS -13.5 | O/U: 51
1. Why New England will cover the spread: Quite simply, the Patriots will cover this spread if they play as well right from the start as they did in the second halves of their last two games. We don’t know if they were bored, but needing each game to secure the top seed, they spotted the Dolphins a 17-0 halftime lead in Week 16 before rallying in the second half to win 27-24, then even more remarkably they spotted Buffalo a 21-0 lead and scored 49 unanswered points, 35 of them coming after halftime!
Tom Brady completed 23-of-34 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns vs. these Broncos in Denver, and the Pats even rushed for 141 yards that game with Stevan Ridley leading the way. As long as New England doesn’t begin lethargically again, it should win going away.
2. Why Denver will cover the spread: Denver’s best chance at covering this spread is winning Time of Possession, and the Broncos could do that considering they rushed for 292 yards in that first meeting. The fact that the Patriots still won by 18 combined with the fact that the whole world saw what Tebow did to a nine-man front last week should mean the Patriots play this straight defensively, not too concerned with allowing a ton of rushing yards knowing that their offense will probably score quickly when they have the ball.
Tebow and the Denver running backs could use that Pats’ (over)confidence to their advantage. The Broncos will also cover the spread if they win the turnover battle, which they lost 3-0 the first time.
3. Total Talk: We think that the Broncos need to play virtually a perfect game to have a chance at covering, running the ball effectively to keep it away from Brady and not turning it over. The scary part is that even if the Broncos execute that perfectly, it would still not guarantee a cover, as the Patriots can score quickly and often, especially at home, and although it may take a while, New England will probably build a two-touchdown lead at some point, forcing Tebow to pass again only this time vs. more conventional coverage. Once that happens, points will come in bunches, so we like the ‘over’ in this contest.
4. Betting Trends for the game: Tom Brady is 133-43 as a starter (103-69 ATS). The ‘over’ is 15-3 in Denver’s last 18 games vs. a team with a winning record.
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