Oct 052012

Denver Broncos (2-2) at New England Patriots (2-2)

We were without it for a year, but NFL fans will get to see Brady/Manning once again this year, their 13th meeting. What Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have done over the past few years is very impressive, but no one compares to Brady and Manning when you look at the last 10 years or so as a whole. This is one of the greatest rivalries in NFL history and this might be the last time (or at the very least, one of the last times), we ever get to see it, with the two star quarterbacks aging, so this is obviously the game to watch this week. It’s not just that they’re great quarterbacks, but it’s how close and entertaining these games are. We can only hope that once these two have moved on, two quarterbacks will have a rivalry to take their place (best candidate would be Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning, because of Drew Brees’ age).

Both quarterbacks are getting towards the tail ends of their careers, but both are still playing at a high level. Brady looks the closest to his vintage self (actually, he’s almost identical to his vintage self), completing 65.6% of his passes for 7.5 YPA and 7 touchdowns to 1 interceptions, all of which are better than his career averages.

Manning, meanwhile, isn’t quite the same, as you would expect since he’s a year older and has a 4 times operated on neck. However, he hasn’t been bad at all this year, completing 64.7% of his passes for an average of 7.6 YPA, 8 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, which are all right around his career averages, very impressive considering what he’s been through. He’s also done that in spite of a very tough schedule, facing Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Houston to kick off the season, before finally getting an easy one last week and having a breakout game against Oakland, completing 30 of 38 for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns. New England is a tough opponent, but their pass defense isn’t very good, so he should have a good game once again in what figures to be a shoot out.

Shoot outs are the norm for these two, as you would expect. The over is 8-4 in their 12 meetings, including 7-2 in the regular season. Because of that, I’m going to lay a unit on the over, even though I rarely make a play on the total. The total is 52 in this one. By the way, since 2010, totals larger than 50 have won over 58 times and under just 40 times.

These games are normally close too. The last 5 have all been decided by a touchdown or fewer, including the last 4 by 4 points or fewer. This week, we’re getting -6.5 points with Manning. That’s the highest the line has been in a matchup between these two quarterbacks since 2001, Brady’s first year as a starter. In fact, since then, the line has never been higher than 4. In Manning’s career as a whole, he’s only once been an underdog of 7 points or more (excluding games in which he didn’t play the entirety and excluding his rookie season of 1998). For what it’s worth, he covered and won.

The reason we’re getting so many points with him probably has something to do with public overreaction, thinking that Manning is done, when, in fact, as I illustrated earlier, he’s far from it. Despite everything he’s been through, a new and probably inferior supporting cast, and a tough slate of games so far, Manning has been about career average thus far. Against a Patriots’ secondary that allows 7.7 YPA, tied for 24th in the league, despite facing Jake Locker, Kevin Kolb, Joe Flacco, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, Manning should have another huge day.

Meanwhile, these teams are much more evenly matched than this line suggests. In fact, Denver has a .5 yards per play edge in yards per play differential. An old gambling formula says to divide that by .15 and add 3 points either way for homefield, which suggests this line should actually be -0.5 in favor of Denver. It’s important to add a human element this time. I don’t think that’s fully accurate. Denver is a much better home team than road team with the combination of their no huddle offense and the thin atmosphere and it think, at most, these two teams are comparable. Still, either way, we’re getting some line value with Denver.

Besides, Peyton Manning is 10-3 ATS as an underdog since 2006 (excluding meaningless week 17 games). He’s 0-2 this year, but he hasn’t been an underdog this large yet and since he hasn’t really seen a decrease in production, that’s not necessarily a sign that he’s lost his touch. I really feel like we’re going to get a vintage Brady/Manning game this week, one that will be very close, so even though I like the Patriots to win at home, I’m grabbing the points and taking Peyton Manning as the largest underdog he’s been since 2002 for a significant play.

Public lean: New England (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Denver covers)

Sharps lean: DEN 12 NE 10

Final update: Nothing to see here. Still like Denver.

New England Patriots 34 Denver Broncos 31

Pick against spread: Denver +6.5 (-110) 3 units

Over/Under: Over 52 1 unit

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