The first match-up of championship Sunday pits the #2 seed New England Patriots up against the AFC’s top seeded Denver Broncos. The Patriots ran their way to the impressive 43-22 shellacking of Indianapolis last Saturday night in a game that saw LeGarrette Blount go bananas stampeding for 166 yards and 4 TDs. Denver had no problem disposing of a pesky Chargers outfit in the team’s third meeting of the season, but allowed SD backers to kick in the backdoor in the game’s final quarter.
BRONCOS vs. PATRIOTS 2014 AFC CHAMPIONSHIP SPREAD:
OPEN: BRONCOS -7 | CURRENT: BRONCOS -6 | O/U: 56
1. Why the PATRIOTS will cover the spread: New England was one of only three teams to upend the Broncos in the regular season. They know exactly what needs to be done to get the job done against Manning and company, but needed to put forth a perfect 30 minutes of football in the 2H of the team’s Week 12 clash in Foxboro to pull off the remarkable 34-31 comeback win in overtime. Tom Brady has now beaten Peyton each of the L/2 seasons with #18 “manning” the Broncos offense, and the Hoody has coached the Patriots to point-spread covers in each of these teams L/4 overall meetings.
2. Why the BRONCOS will cover the spread: With just one more win needed to reach one of the team’s ultimate goals, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Broncos will be live and ready for what’s about to step onto their home turf Sunday afternoon. With Denver already falling to the Patriots earlier this season, it adds a revenge angle to the equation that just saw San Francisco take advantage of in the division round.
While they passed that test last week vs. the Chargers, they weren’t able to cover the spread and own their enraged wagering supporters big time after choking away a cover they looked to have in the bag through three quarters of play. Denver was a $$$-maker at home throughout the regular season (5-2-1 ATS), and stands 5-2 ATS after failing to cover the closing number the previous week.
3. Total Talk Broncos/Patriots: Combined, these teams check in 21-13 to the ‘over’, and with the Patriots ranked 26th in the league in yards allowed and the Broncos ranked 22nd in points allowed, the Mile High scoreboard looks to be getting a workout in this second go round of AFC heavyweights. The ‘over’ is 6-1 in New England’s L/7 games with an average combined score of 57.7 points, and it’s surrendered point totals of 21, 23, 13, 30, 24, 31, 24, & 7 in its eight played road games.
The Pats have played to “overs” in eight of their L/11 on the road vs. +.500 opponents. Denver has surrendered an average of 21.9 PPG in its nine home games, but enters this win or go home clash 26-10-1 to the ‘over’ in its L/37 games played in front of its rabid home fan base; ‘over’ bettors cashed tickets in six of their nine home games to date.
4. Betting Trends for Broncos/Patriots: You have to go as far back as the 2006-07 season to find the last time New England was forced to go on the road in the playoffs. The last time just so happened to occur against a Colts team led by none other than Peyton Manning! While that speaks volumes about just how successful this franchise has been during that time span, I believe it bodes terribly for them in this spot. The Patriots were a completely different team in the visitor’s role this season evidenced by their 4-4 SU & 2-6 ATS records; they lost to the Bengals, Jets, Panthers, and Dolphins and barely escaped falling to the Bills and Texans. Denver seemingly had their trip to Gillette Stadium all but wrapped through one quarter of play before imploding in the second half. Peyton had a brutal game, but Knowshon Moreno was able to gouge the Pats rush defense for 224 yards and a TD.
I just don’t foresee New England being able to keep this offensive dynamo in check with the Broncos backs ripping off huge chunks of yardage ultimately opening up passing lanes for Manning when they try to adjust. New England has failed to cover each of its L/4 AFC championship games, and did not cover any of its three games played on grass in the regular season. Denver has been the AFC’s team of destiny all season long and I firmly expect it to punch a ticket to Super Bowl XLVIII by pasting the Patriots in this revenge bout.
Denver 45 – New England 27