New England Patriots (10-0 SU, 5-2-3 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (8-2 SU, 5-3-2ATS)
Pro Football Week 12
Date/Time: Sunday, November 29th, 8:30 PM EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High
By Mike M., NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NE-3 / DEN+3
Over/Under Total: 43.5
The injury-riddled New England Patriots travel west to take on the Denver Broncos for a primetime Sunday night showdown in Colorado. While the game will not have the extraneous luster of the Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady storyline battles of the past with Manning being out for the second straight game due to foot and rib injuries, it will more importantly have major ramifications when it comes to the teams battling each other toward earning the number one seed in the AFC and in turn postseason home field advantage throughout the playoffs until Super Bowl 50 on February 7th.
Brock Osweiler will start in place of Manning after leading Denver to a 17-15 win at Chicago last weekend. The 2012 second round pick out out of Arizona State, who was drafted less than a month after the Broncos signed Manning to a free agent contract, passing for 250 yards with two touchdowns and zero turnovers, the first game all season that the Broncos didnt throw for an interception. While Peyton Manning has had a legendary career in the NFL, the longevity and injuries have unmistakably started to take their toll, and according to reports out of Denver a growing amount of Bronco fans are glad to see the possible future of the team getting a chance to shine in Osweiler. And its not like Manning had much success against Belichick and the Patriots anyways, his career record against New England of 7-13 is easily the worst he has against any other team in the NFL as impressively for Peyton though, the Patriots are one of only four teams out of the 32 in the league that Manning has a record of under .500 against in his career.
The return of Bronco wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who is expected to play after being held out last week against the Bears after aggravating a high ankle sprain in pregame warm-ups, will be a significant boost to their offense and provide another strong weapon at Osweilers disposal. Sanders fellow wideout Demaryius Thomas has yet again been a force to be reckoned with and will continue to see his fair share of passes, as he is currently fourth in the NFL in targets with 111 and now has 71 receptions on the year to go all with 875 yards receiving. The focal point of the running game remains to be Ronnie Hillman, who has five of the teams six rushing touchdowns on the season and has clearly outclassed his backfield running mate C.J Anderson, who was originally expected to be the Broncos work house after dominating at the end of last season but instead has been the leader of the pack of gigantic early round fantasy football running back busts such as Eddie Lacy, Jeremy Hill and Marshawn Lynch.
The strength of the Denver team is undoubtedly their defense, which ranks first in the NFL in yards allowed per game and second in points allowed and this Sunday will get to face an offense that has been depleted by injuries in recent weeks. After the Patriots lost running back Dion Lewis and wide receiver Julian Edelman in consecutive games, starting wide receiver Danny Amendola was injured against the Bills on Monday and is not expected to play on Sunday against the Broncos. Losing those three is a tough blow for a team already dealing with a paper-mached together offensive line that has battled their fair share of injuries and thus consistency problems all season and was noticeably ineffective against the Buffalo defense as Tom Brady was constantly pressured and either knocked down or forced to toss the ball into the ground as there was simply no one available to throw to. The stats dont lie, as last weeks game was the first all year that Brady didnt throw at least two touchdowns, his 51.3% passing completion rate was his lowest of the season by over 10% and the 273 yards passing was his second smallest of 2015.
One major issue for Brady and his offense is that star tight end Rob Gronkowski has been held to just eleven catches and one touchdown over the past three games as teams continue to blanket him with either double or at times even triple coverage as New Englands other offensive options keep dropping away. The backfield moves on with LeGarrette Blount as the lead option, while second year running back James White provided a much needed spark of the bench last week scoring touchdowns both on the ground and through the air and will hope to continue that success on Sunday.
While New England has gotten the better of the Broncos in their recent past, winning five of the last six matchups between the teams, they have just won just once in their last five trips to Denver. The Patriots have also struggled of late as road dogs with a record of just 5-11 in their last sixteen games giving points away from Foxboro and have had continued difficulty playing at a stadium with a grass field, covering only twice in their last eleven games on a non-turf type surface. Unfortunately for New England their offense is a shell of what they had to start the season as the injuries have piled up to the point that you never know what they will get out of their offensive line which combined with the fact that Brady is stuck throwing to hands down the worst group of starting wide receivers in football leaves the Patriots in very precarious situation on Sunday night, especially going up against a defense as dominant as Denver. With Brady, Gronk and Belichick you can never count out New England, but this weekend the best move is to take the field goal head start and go with the Broncos.
Mikes Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Denver +3
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