John Elway knew that signing an aging Peyton Manning was a long-term liability, but at least the Denver Broncos got a couple of AFC Championships out of the deal. Once the old man left the huddle for good, young passers auditioned for the job as the next 5 to 10-year answer at QB that Elway is looking for.
The only problem is that they’re auditioning on the job. Brock Osweiler returned this season, but the majority of snaps have gone to a struggling Trevor Siemian. The 25 year-old Northwestern grad has thrown for 9 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while taking 25 sacks.
Worse, the hapless passing game has seemed to infect the rest of the squad, and a normally-excellent defense has been less and less consistent. Since beating the Cowboys 42-17 in Week 2, Denver has won once and lost 5 games.
New England, visiting Mile High this Sunday night, has won 4 in a row after a modest start. But Vegas book-makers are not convinced that this contest will be a cakewalk for the away team.
Who: New England Patriots at Denver Broncos
When: Sunday, November 12th, 8:30 PM EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
Lines: NE (-7.5) at DEN (+7.5) / O/U Total: (44)
Why isn’t the line in double-digits, considering the opposite directions these teams are going in?
Maybe it’s Denver’s home field advantage? It’s true that the Broncos are 3-1 at home in 2017. A noisy home crowd can especially benefit Von Miller and the pass-rush of the Orange Crush, thanks to the front-7 getting off at the snap a fraction faster than an opposing offense.
But it hasn’t been a sure thing. Last week’s self-destructive 51-23 loss to Philadelphia shows that the Denver ‘D has its vulnerabilities, and it gave up 117 yards rushing to unheralded Orleans Darkwa at home in a loss to New York.
Furthermore, local beat writers in Denver – closer to the team than national pundits seem to have all but given up on the notion that the Patriots can be had on Sunday night, at least in the Broncos’ current state. Osweiler is reportedly getting the nod to start against the Pats, but a half-joking article in Mile High Report suggests that the Bronco offense should run the Wildcat the entire game and avoid playing either QB.
Maybe the point spread is affected by the Patriots’ margin-of-victory, which has been narrow in recent wins thanks to a more conservative-than-usual offense. When the New England OL failed to protect Tom Brady in the early leg of the season, the Pats went to an old-fashioned “Power I” formation with a fullback playing on most snaps.
As usual, the play-calling is a grab bag over the long haul, but Brady makes everything work. It’s just a more calm, ball-control attack than we’re used to seeing from the Bostonians. Against the Falcons in Week 7, Brady was sacked twice but remained accurate on limited attempts, passing for 2 scores and almost 250 yards. Dion Lewis had a 100-yard day on the ground.
The power-running tactics not only help the offensive line, but the defense too. Incredibly, the Pats are allowing about 2 points less per game than the Broncos, a sharp reversal in the pecking order among AFC defenders. No longer is a mega-passing day by Tom Brady a prerequisite for New England to cover a spread.
Take advantage of the surprisingly-thin line. New England’s renewed commitment to the downhill running game is a god-send against a pass rush like the Broncos have, and Bill Belichick is a master at taking away a one-dimensional opponent’s strength. Osweiler may provide a brief spark, but if he does, Brady will open things up and cancel out any early lead that the Broncs are able to grab.
New England (-7.5) is the winning wager ATS.