New England Patriots (10-0) at Denver Broncos (8-2)
This line was 5.5 a week ago on the early line, in favor of New England in Denver, but now New England is only favored by a field goal. I typically like to fade significant week-to-week line movements because they tend to be overreactions to a single week of play and where these two teams rank in rate of moving the chains differential suggests that New England should be favored by at least a little bit more than this, as the undefeated Patriots rank 2nd and Denver ranks 14th.
However, the Patriots are so banged up right now. After losing Dion Lewis for the season with a torn ACL 3 weeks ago and Julian Edelman for the regular season with a broken foot 2 weeks ago, Danny Amendola went down with a knee sprain last week against the Bills, a big loss considering he was having a great game in Edelman’s absence before he went down. Amendola’s injury is far less serious than the other two, but he’s considered a gametime decision at best for this game.
Even if he does play, the Patriots’ offense really didn’t seem the same without Lewis and Edelman last week at home against the Bills. Going to Denver to play the Broncos, who might have the best defense in the NFL, isn’t going to be any easier. And if Amendola is out, the Patriots would be left with Brandon LaFell, Chris Harper, and Keshawn Martin as their top-3 wide receivers. They obviously still have tight end Rob Gronkowski, but he becomes a lot easier to cover if there isn’t anyone else on the field you have to worry about one-on-one. On the defensive side of the ball, key linebacker Jamie Collins is expected to miss his 4th straight game, as he recovers from an illness.
The Broncos do have some injuries of their own, as outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware will miss his 3rd straight game and guard Evan Mathis is expected to be a gametime decision, but their injuries are nowhere near as debilitating as the Patriots’ injuries. And, of course, quarterback Peyton Manning is out with a foot injury, but he was playing so poorly before the injury that backup Brock Osweiler is an upgrade for an offense that hasn’t really been able to do much to support their dominant defense thus far this season. Osweiler probably isn’t anything more than a competent quarterback at this stage in his development, but he showed enough in the first start of his career last week in Chicago to suggest he’s an upgrade over the aging Manning and someone who gives the Broncos the best chance to win now. Because of that and the Patriots injuries, the line movement down to a field goal is legitimate.
The Broncos are also in a great spot, with a trip to San Diego on deck. They’re expected to be 6 point favorites, according to the early line, and teams are 73-52 ATS since 2010 before being road favorites of 6+. On top of that, home underdogs are 74-44 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites, since 2002. I don’t really love the Broncos in this one or anything, but we’re getting a field goal with them and close to 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less, so I’m confident enough to put money on the Broncos.
Denver Broncos 17 New England Patriots 16 Upset Pick +125
Pick against the spread: Denver +3