New England (13-4) @ Denver (13-4), Sunday 3:05 PM
Line: Den +3.0 O/U 44.5
Here we go. The best the AFC has to offer! Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning…..for the seventeenth freaking time! I like to call it Branning Bowl XVII.
I won’t bore you with recaps or stats or highlights or lowlights of the previous sixteen times they’ve played each other; the (translation: lame) sports media outlets have you covered for that junk. Hell, there’s even a Manning v. Brady Rivalry Wikipedia page.
Despite our affinity for 80’s power rock, Chevy Camaros and Baywatch, we here at The Machine are living in the here and now. I mean, just this week I had Ginger King dapping all over some *not under aged* chicks. When it comes to winning football games (and winning money on football games) it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-business. And in that regard, New England has a huge edge: their quarterback doesn’t suck.
If you think the Patriots are going to steamroll the Broncos, then congratulations, you get it. I won’t waste your time, you can just move along to Ginger’s NFC Championship write-up. But if the Peyton Manning apologists have you second guessing that gut feeling you have…if only the receivers didn’t drop so many passes (seriously, the number of drops has steadily climbed all week- we’re at like double digits now)…then please, continue reading, or take some pepto bismol.
“The Broncos formula for winning is simple: play great defense (1st in total defense, allowing only 283 yards/game), run the ball (CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman have had mild success), and don’t let the quarterback lose the game for you.” That’s me quoting me! And guess what, the Broncos beat the Steelers because their defense came up with a timely turnover and their field goal kicker is money from 60 yards out. Manning was 21/37 for 222 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, with a 74.4 passer rating. That’s a textbook game-manager stat line right there. That passer rating is 10th out of 12 qualified postseason quarterbacks. Oh, that sample size too small for ya? Okay, let’s take a gander at the passer ratings rankings for the regular season (hint: look near the bottom):Yeeeeah, that’s Nick Foles/Ryan Mallet territory we’re talking about. Now don’t misinterpret anything I’m saying: I’d love for Peyton to put one over on the Patriots, win the Super bowl and ride off into the sunset. The problem is that sun set a year and a half ago.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the home team. They do boast the league’s best defense. They are built to cover on the back-end while their edge rushers, led by Von Miller, produce tremendous pressure on the opposing offensive line and quarterback. And if the Patriots have an Achilles heel, I believe it is their offensive line.
The sweater started to unravel a bit the last time the Patriots played at Mile High when the Broncos handed the then undefeated Patriots their first loss of the season. The Patriots lost 4 of their last 6 games, limped their way to a first round bye before handling the Chiefs at home last week. Their losses all came against teams that have strong defensive lines (Broncos, Eagles, Jets, Dolphins) able to generate pressure without committing blitzers.
So that’s what the Patriots don’t do well. In every other facet of the game they excel, including cheating! They are such good cheats! (We’ll never let it die, never).
The Patriots use Edelman and Gronk to create match-up problems. They simply dink and dunk with short passes to Edelman, Amendola and [insert name] running back, until they get to the redzone where they kill you with Gronkowski over the middle. Their efficiency and effectiveness is second to none. If they get into a rhythm, and if the Broncos can’t get Tom Terrific on his ass, this offensive is capable of dropping a 40-spot on any defense.
I love the Manning/Brady angle (soak it in, this will be the last). I love the trash talking about Brady being a bitch. I think the home crowd and Denver’s defense can keep this game close. Hell, the Chiefs and Alex Smith gave the Patriots fits, so the Broncos have a chance. But at the end of the day I trust Tom Brady and Bill Belichick more than Peyton Manning at this stage of his career. I mean, Manning was hard to trust in these spots (cold-weather, primetime matchup) in his prime, let alone now with his noodle neck.
I’ll take the Patriots to win decisively.
Prediction: New England 27, Denver 16
We’re on to Santa Clara!