Note: If you're looking for the 2014 AFC Championship game matchup between these teams, please go here: New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos Pick .
New England Patriots (10-3 SU, 7-6 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (8-5 SU, 7-6 ATS), 4:15 p.m. EST, NFL Week 15, Sunday, December 18, 2011, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado, TV: CBS
by Scotty L, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NE -6/DEN +6
Over/Under Total: 46
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The New England Patriots head West to face the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos. Denver is the story of the league at the moment, with QB Tim Tebow on an incredible run, going 7-1 as a starter, including 6 straight wins. In each of his last 4 games, he has led his team to dramatic comeback victories. The story is far from over, but what he has managed has bordered on the incredible. New England, meanwhile, is a on a nice little run of their own--winning their last 5 straight games to go to 10-3.
Denver is 31st in passing yards, 23rd in total yards, and 21st in points scored. Tebow is completing under 50% of his passes and has only 1290 yards in the air in 8 starts and appearances in 3 other games. But this is one time where you can throw out the stats. Tebow has shown a flair for magic that supersedes any numerical breakdown. 7-1 as a starter is certainly the only pertinent stat when analyzing Tebow.
The Broncos have the best run attack in the league. Willis McGahee (199-920-4) is having a resurgent year, with Tebow chiming in with 517 yards and 3 touchdowns of his own. Facing a Patriots “D” that is last against the pass, maybe Tebow will air it out a bit more. Eric Decker is a fine receiver, but their pass catching crew certainly lacks depth, especially when compared to the Patriots.
With the game-planning prowess of the Patriots’ coaching staff, Tebow will face a stiff challenge. The Patriots “D” has issues, but with Tebow’s liabilities as a thrower, they should do well keying in on the Broncos’ run. Then again, that has been the plan of the last 6 teams who fell to the Broncos. The Patriots, however, present some problems unlike what the Broncos have been facing lately.
During their 5-game winning streak, New England has scored at least 31 in each game. QB Tom Brady has thrown one interception in the last 4 games. WR Wes Welker is up to 100 catches. Exploding TE Rob Gronkowski has caught 9 touchdown passes in the last 5 games. Even 3rd and 4th options Aaron Hernandez and Deion Branch would be the leading receivers on some teams--including the Broncos.
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The Broncos have beaten (in order) the Raiders, the Chiefs, the Jets, the Chargers, the Vikings, and the Bears. While that is nothing to sneeze at and 4 of those games were on the road, these are teams that had QB and major injury issues, who weren’t in good form, and whose offenses are not the same level as the Patriots. And needing last-second miracles to win these games is certainly inspirational, but will they be able to keep pace with the Patriots to make a comeback possible?
Against the Patriots, the Broncos will be facing their toughest opponent of the Tebow tenure, a peaking squad with a history of great success. Then again, this is the 2nd straight road game for New England and they looked a little ragged at Washington on Sunday, playing the Redskins on mostly even terms in a 34-27 win. A similar performance in Denver on Sunday could spell trouble for the Patriots. Theoretically, the Broncos should be feeling more urgency, with a narrow lead in the AFC West and a looser grip on postseason possibilities than what the Patriots enjoy at 10-3.
Scotty L’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The rationale for taking Denver in this game is solid. You’re getting a home team at a difficult place to play on a 6-game winning streak with a quarterback that has caught lightning in a bottle--and getting 6 points to boot. But even if Denver loses, that doesn’t take away from what they have accomplished and with the sliding Bills and Chiefs next on the schedule, they can still absorb a loss and come out on top. Look for the Patriots to put this one out of range so that not even Tebow can come back. The Broncos will surge late, but the Patriots will put enough points up to escape Denver with the win and cover. Take the New England Patriots minus 6 points.
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