2016 NFL Playoffs
AFC Championship Game
#2 New England Patriots at #1 Denver Broncos
Sports Authority Field at Mile High – Denver, Colorado
Sunday, January 24, 2016, 3:00 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Opening Line: New England -3 (-115)
Current Line: New England -3 (-105)
Opening Total: 44
Current Total: 44 1/2
Opening Money Line: Patriots -175 / Broncos +155
Current Money Line: Patriots -155 / Broncos +135
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning meet for the 17th and possibly last time as opposing quarterbacks Sunday in the AFC Championship Game. Brady holds an 11-5 head-to-head advantage against Manning dating back to his days with the Indianapolis Colts The 13-4 Denver Broncos host the 13-4 New England Patriots with a berth in Super Bowl 50 on the line. The winner will play either the Arizona Cardinals or Carolina Panthers.
Denver leads the series 29-21 against New England, including 3-1 in the playoffs. Denver won the last playoff meeting 26-16 in the 2014 AFC Championship game. The Broncos beat the then 10-0 Patriots Thanksgiving weekend this season in Denver 30-24 in overtime. Manning missed that game with a foot injury and Brock Osweiler started for the Broncos. New England jumped out to a 14-0 lead early in the second and led 21-7 early in the fourth. Denver scored 17 straight points to take a 24-21 lead with 1:09 left. New England tied it up with 13 seconds left on a 47 yard field goal as time expired. The Patriots won the toss but went three and out on their overtime possession. Denver won the game on a 48 yard touchdown run from C.J. Anderson.
The Patriots started off the season 10-0 but some injuries to key skill position players led to a 2-4 record in the last 6 games of the regular season. New England still won the AFC East, but finished in a three way tie for the best record in the AFC with the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals. Denver won the three way tie breaker with New England as the #2 seed and Cincinnati as the #3 seed. The Patriots beat the #5 seed Kansas City Chiefs 27-20 last week in Foxboro in the Divisional round.
New England is coached by Bill Belichick. The Patriots have home wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers 28-21, Jacksonville Jaguars 51-17, New York Jets 30-23, Miami Dolphins 36-7, Washington Redskins 27-10, Buffalo Bills 20-13 and Tennessee Titans 33-16. New England has road wins over the Bills 40-32, Dallas Cowboys 30-6, Indianapolis Colts 34-27, New York Giants 27-26 and Texans 27-6. The Patriots have road losses at the Broncos 30-24, Jets 26-20, and Dolphins 20-10 two weeks ago, plus a home loss against the Philadelphia Eagles 35-28.
Kansas City entered the game against New England on an 11 game winning streak. Many gave the Chiefs a puncher’s chance of pulling off the upset against the banged up Patriots even in Foxboro. The Patriots were 6 point favorites and the total was 44. New England led 14-6 at halftime and expanded it to 21-6 early in the third. Kansas City scored to make it 21-13 going into the fourth. New England added 2 field goals to lead 27-13. Kansas City took over at their own 20 with 6:29 left. However, despite having three timeouts, the Chiefs finally scored with 1:13 left to make it 27-20. They failed to recover the onside kick, but still had three timeouts. New England got a first down to seal the win though. The Chiefs had 378 total yards to 340 for New England. The Chiefs dropped three interceptions in the fourth quarter, any of which might have changed the game. New England is 8-7-2 ATS and the total is 10-7 this season.
The Broncos won the AFC West by a game over the Kansas City Chiefs. Last week, Denver hosted the #6 seed Pittsburgh Steelers in the Divisional playoffs.
Denver is coached by Gary Kubiak. The Broncos have home wins over the Baltimore Ravens 19-13, Minnesota Vikings 23-20, Green Bay Packers 29-10 and New England Patriots 30-24 in overtime, Bengals 20-17 in overtime, and San Diego Chargers 27-20 in the last game of the season, along with road wins over the Kansas City Chiefs 31-24, Detroit Lions 24-12, Oakland Raiders 16-10, Cleveland Browns 26-23 in overtime, Chicago Bears 17-15 and San Diego Chargers 17-3. Denver has home losses to the Chiefs 29-13 and Raiders 15-12, along with a road losses at the Indianapolis Colts 27-24 and Pittsburgh Steelers 34-27 last week. The Broncos have won three straight games.
Denver was a 7 point favorite against Pittsburgh and the total was 41. The Broncos kicked two first quarter field goals to take a 6-0 lead, but the Steelers would lead 10-9 at halftime. The teams exchanged field goals in the third with Pittsburgh taking a 13-12 lead into the fourth. Denver regained the lead 20-12 with a touchdown and 2 point conversion with 3 minutes left after recovering a Pittsburgh fumble. It was the only turnover of the game. Denver added a field goal to make it 23-13. Pittsburgh pulled to within 23-16 with 19 seconds left, but were unable to recover the onside kick. The Steelers had 396 total yards to 324 for the Broncos. Denver is 8-8-1 ATS and the total is 6-10-1 this season.
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New England is outscoring teams 29-20 this season. The Patriots are #3 in scoring and are #10 in points allowed. New England averages 374 total yards per game including 287 passing and 88 rushing yards per game. The Patriots are #6 or better in total offense and passing offense, but #30 in rushing. On defense, the Patriots allow 339 total yards per game including 241 passing and 99 rushing yards. The Patriots are #9 against the rush and in total defense. New England is 97/240 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 92/243. The Patriots have forced 49 sacks and allowed 38 this season. New England is +7 in turnovers and has allowed 4 defensive/special teams touchdowns this season. The Patriots have scored two defensive touchdowns this season.
Quarterback Tom Brady is having another MVP caliber season. He has completed 64.4% of his passes for 4,770 yards with 36 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, along with 53 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. He is probable with an ankle injury.
Running back LeGarrette Blount has 165 carries for 703 yards and 6 touchdowns, along with 6 catches for 43 yards and a touchdown. He is out for the season with a hip injury. Dion Lewis has 49 carries for 234 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 36 catches for 388 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is out for the season with a torn ACL. Brandon Bolden has 63 catches for 207 yards, along with 19 catches for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns. James White, Joey Iosefa and Steven Jackson will also get some carries.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski has 72 catches for 1,176 yards and 11 touchdown catches. He is probable with knee and back injuries. Receiver Julian Edelman has 61 catches for 692 yards and seven touchdowns, along with 23 rushing yards. He is probable after returning last after missing the previous seven games with a broken foot. Danny Amendola has 65 catches for 648 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is probable with a knee injury. Brandon LaFell has 37 catches for 515 yards. White has 40 catches for 410 yards with 4 touchdowns. Tight end Scott Chandler has 23 catches for 259 yards and 4 touchdowns. Aaron Dobson, Brandon Gibson, and Brandon Tyms are all out for the season. Fifteen defensive players and five offensive linemen are listed on the injury report.
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Denver is outscoring teams 22-19 this season. The Broncos are #4 in points allowed. Denver averages 356 yards per game on offense, including 248 passing and 107 rushing yards. On defense, Denver is allowing 283 total yards including 200 passing and 84 rushing yards. Denver leads the league in total & pass defense and is #3 against the rush. The Broncos are 86/238 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 85/241. Denver has forced 52 sacks but allowed 39 sacks this season. Denver is -4 in turnovers. The Broncos have six defensive/special teams touchdowns and have allowed three.
Peyton Manning has completed 59.8% of his passes for 2,249 yards with 9 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Manning will start against New England. Brock Osweiler has started in place of Manning. Osweiler has completed 61.8% of his passes for 1,967 yards with 10 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, and has 61 rushing yards and a touchdown. He is probable with a knee injury.
Running back Ronnie Hillman has 207 carries for 863 yards and 7 touchdowns along with 24 catches for 111 yards. C.J. Anderson has 152 carries for 720 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with 25 catches for 183 yards.
Receiver DeMaryius Thomas has 105 catches for 1,304 yards and 6 touchdowns. Emmanuel Sanders has 76 catches for 1,135 yards and 6 touchdowns. Tight end Owen Daniels has 46 catches for 517 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is probable with a knee injury. Bennie Fowler and Jordan Norwood will also get some targets. The Broncos acquired tight end Vernon Davis in a trade with the 49ers. Four defensive players and two offensive linemen are listed on the injury report.
New England is 1-3-1 ATS after a straight up win and after rushing for 90 yards or less, 3-11 on grass, 1-4-2 against teams with winning records, 1-4-1 after passing for 250 yards or more, 1-5 in road games and in AFC Championship games. The over is 6-1 overall and 8-3 in Denver between these teams. The Patriots are 5-2 ATS in this series recently and were favored in each of those contests.
Denver is 3-1-1 ATS against teams with winning records, 6-2 after allowing 250 passing yards or more, 8-3-1 after an ATS loss, 1-3-1 overall, against AFC teams and and on grass, 1-4-1 in playoff home games, 1-5-1 in January and in playoff games, and 0-3-1 at home. The home team is 6-0 ATS in this series recently. The Broncos have covered 5 of the last 6 against the Patriots in Denver.
New England is playing in the AFC Championship for the fifth straight season, an amazing accomplishment. However, they are very banged up right now on defense and on the offensive line. There is a 50-60% chance of rain Sunday in Denver but temperatures should be in the relatively warm 40’s. The Broncos can’t get into a shootout with the Patriots, but I like the Broncos to win a close low scoring game with their dominant defense.