New England Patriots (6-2 SU, 4-4 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (3-5 SU, 2-5-1 ATS)
NFL Week 10
Date/Time: Sunday November 12th 8:30 PM EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NE -7 / DEN +7
Familiar foes faceoff in Denver when the Broncos play host to the Patriots in a primetime showdown on Sunday night at Mile High Stadium. This will be the fourth straight meeting between the teams to take place in Colorado, with New England winning their most recent battle 16-3 last December and the Broncos having won the previous two, including the 2015 AFC Championship game.
Unfortunately for Denver things have not exactly proceeded according to plan after having won the Super Bowl two seasons ago. They have gone a positively mediocre 12-12 since and have especially struggled of late, posting a paltry record of just 4-8 in their last twelve games. Their season started off well enough this year, going 2-0 to start the year and looking like one of the best teams in the league after putting the hurt on Dallas 42-17, but from that point on they have won just once in their last six games and last week decided to switch things up with a change at the quarterback position.
Out is Trevor Siemian, who ranks just 30th in the league in quarterback rating, as after posting a 6/2 TD-INT ratio in their first two games, he plummeted back to reality with eight interceptions compared to only three touchdowns in his next five games. With Siemian relieved of duty, the Broncos decided to turn to former starter Brock Osweiller, who is back on the team after flaming out in Houston and than being traded to Cleveland along with a second round pick in a unprecedented trade where a team was forced to give up an early draft pick along with a player just to rid itself of a terrible contract (four year/$72 million).
The switch at quarterback was a necessity, but it didnt really have the desired effect with the Broncos getting pummeled by Philly 51-23 this past Sunday. Osweiller completed just 50% of his passes, going 19 of 38 for 208 yards and a touchdown while also throwing two interceptions. The only real benefactor of the quarterback change was wide receiver Demaryious Thomas, who caught his first touchdown in sixteen games as part of an eight reception/70 yard day in which he was targeted a team high twelve times. The receivers as a group will be hoping for a significantly more prolific second half as not one of them has more than two touchdown catches on the season so far. They are not alone, as a scoring drought also has affected the Broncos backfield, with no player having scored more than one rushing touchdown in their first eight games. Expected leader C.J Anderson has not produced as expected and now finds himself in a near three-way tie with Devontae Booker and Jamal Charles for touches on a weekly basis.
Despite giving up 53 points to Philadelphia last week, it would be foolish to under estimate the Denver defense, which ranks 2nd in the league in yards allowed per game, 4th against the pass and 5th versus the rush. Von Miller continues to lead the team and is 7th in the NFL with eight sacks while his fellow linebacker Brandon Marshall leads the team in tackles with 57. Both and the rest of the squad will look to rebound this week after getting scat upon by the Eagles, though the timing isnt very advantageous with the Patriots and their league leading offense coming to town.
New England heads into Denver fresh of their bye week, though that hasnt always translated to success for the Patriots as they are just 4-3 in their last seven seasons after the week off. The big news during their time away was the trade of backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a second round pick next season. Garoppolo was due to become a free agent at seasons end, and there was simply no way around the salary cap in terms of carrying two high priced players at the quarterback position. So with the trade deadline hours away New England made sure to get something in return and gain an extra pick in a draft where they will already be missing their 4th (to Philly for Eric Rowe) and 5th (to Seattle for Cassius Marsh) round picks. The Patriots have since signed Brian Hoyer as their backup, who was cut by San Francisco soon after the trade and not included in the deal as it would have had compensatory draft pick ramifications, of which New England looks to be in good shape to possibly receive mid-round selections after losing Jabaal Sheard, Martellus Bennett and LeGarrette Blount to free agency this past off season.
One possible area of concern for the Patriots is with Stephen Gostowski, who missed an extra point at Denver in the 2015 AFC Championship that cost New England dearly as they were forced to go for a 2 point conversion late in the game to attempt to tie the score, which ultimately failed and the team lost 20-18. This season he has missed three field goals between 40-49 yards while also already having missed one extra point and if his struggles continue it would not be a surprise if New England started to look in a different direction, especially considering Gostowski is the highest paid kicker in football with an average salary per year of $4.3 million and they have already done something similar before when they cut ties with Adam Vinatieri when they no longer thought he was worth the hit to their salary cap.
There is no such concern at the quarterback position with Tom Brady, who has completed 66.7% of his passes on the year while throwing for 16 touchdowns compared to only 2 interceptions, which is a similar statistical pace as last season when he posted a 28/2 TD-INT ratio. He will have his work cut out for him against the Broncos tough pass rush and pass defense, and will look to continue to spread the ball around to his many targets such as Brandin Cooks, Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan, who have thus far put up a combined stat line of 100 receptions for 1510 yards and 13 touchdowns. Denver is one of three teams along with Arizona and Green Bay that Brady has gone just .500 against in his career, with Carolina and Seattle the only teams he has posted a losing record against.
The game against Denver will be the Patriots first road game in a tough schedule streak that sees them play on the road in five of the next six weeks. Tied with Pittsburgh for the best record in the AFC and with Kansas City (who already has a tiebreaker advantage) just a game behind them, New England can ill afford many more losses if they want to gain the ever so important home field advantage in the playoffs, which is something they lost out on in 2015 after not taking their last two games seriously and eventually cost them in the playoffs when they had to travel to Mile High to take on the Broncos in the previously mentioned championship game.
The line for this weeks game is at seven which may scare off some from taking the Patriots, especially considering the game is in Denver and the previous success Von Miller and the Broncos have had in getting through the Patriots offensive line and putting constant pressure on Tom Brady. While these are all valid points, this Broncos team is not nearly as well rounded as the recent ones before it and have been that way now for a concerning amount of time, as they not only have just those four wins in their past twelve games, their last seven losses have all been by double-digits and have come at an average of over 16 points per game. The Denver defense may keep things close for a while, but I cant imagine their offense being able to keep pace with New England, and that is why I am picking the Patriots to get the win and cover on the road at Mile High.
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