Free NFL Divisional Playoffs Picks: Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots NFL Playoffs Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on CBS 1/14/12: Saturday’s Divisional matchup was supposed to put the AFC’s powerhouse franchises against each other, but quarterback Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos have defying convention since late October. After knocking of the defending conference champion Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime last weekend, the Broncos will take aim at the top-seeded New England Patriots in Foxboro this weekend. The game is a rematch of a regular season meeting that New England won 41-23 in Denver. That being said, the AFC has been tough to predict all year, and anything can happen in the win or go home format of the postseason. Still, the Patriots are hefty 13 ½-point favorites playing at home.
Offensively, the two teams are complete opposites. The Patriots own one of the top passing attacks in the NFL, while the Broncos have the top-rated rushing attack in the league. Despite appearing one dimensional on the stat sheet, both teams have unique systems. Denver’s read-option is far from a simple power running game, and it also opens up big play opportunities in the passing game. Meanwhile, the Patriots two tight end passing attack creates too many mismatches for defenses to account for. Still, the clear edge in consistent production goes to New England. The Patriots averaged 32.1 points per game this year compared to just 19.3 for Denver.
While the Denver running game is at the center of everything the Broncos do offensively, the New England secondary could have the toughest task this weekend. Tebow is coming of a game when he lit up the top-rated Steelers secondary for more than 300 yards. Now, he gets a shot at a Patriots’ secondary ranked last in the NFL. New England has to make Tebow complete shorter passes in tight space. He completed just 10 of his 21 attempts last weekend, but because a majority of his throws were big plays down the field, the Denver passing attack still did plenty of damage. For all his magic and leadership qualities, Tebow’s strength is not picking apart a secondary with a bunch of precise throws. If New England can take away the deep balls, its suspect secondary will be somewhat masked.
The X-factor in the game could be Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas. After battling injuries early in the career, Thomas is finally healthy, and his size and speed combination has been giving opponents fits. He had just four catches against the Steelers last weekend, but he still topped 200 yards. Thomas is the top deep threat for the Broncos, and his height and length make him Tebow’s top target. If the Patriots can neutralize Thomas, Tebow could struggle to move the ball down the field with other options, especially with receiver Eric Decker battling injuries.
For the Denver defense, finding ways to put pressure on New England QB Tom Brady is going to be crucial. The Broncos sacked Brady just two times in the earlier matchup, and Brady picked apart the Denver defense. He threw for more than 300 yards and completed 68 percent of his passes, and considering he threw for more than 5,000 yards on the year, there is no reason he shouldn’t dissect the Denver secondary if he has time in the pocket. A pass rush may also be the only way for the Broncos to slow down the tight end tandem of the Patriots. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are too big to be covered by cornerbacks and too fast to be covered by linebackers. When they have time to get down the middle of the field, the New England offense becomes a juggernaut.
In the first meeting, turnovers played a major role in deciding the outcome. Denver lost three fumbles, giving the high-powered Patriots’ offense more chances to score and more chances to score with good field position. If the Broncos can eliminate the careless turnovers, there is a good chance the rematch could be much closer. After all, Denver was moving the ball on offense and keeping pace with New England until the turnovers tipped the scales and forced the Broncos to abandon their offense in an attempt to erase the deficit.
With nearly two touchdowns on their side, the Broncos have a realistic chance at covering the spread. The Tebow to Thomas connection has added another dimension to the Denver offense, which works perfectly with the team’s power running game. Granted, the Broncos’ defense showed no signs of being able to derail Brady and company, but Denver should be able to put some points on the board. The Patriots have more firepower and are better equipped to win a shootout, but Tebow should be able to do enough to keep the Broncos in striking distance.
Prediction: Denver Broncos (+13 ½) Cover the Spread
Free NFL Football Picks and Predictions: Denver Broncos +13.5
|NFL Playoff Football: Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots
Time: 8 PM EST on CBS
Vegas Odds – Favorite: New England -13.5 | Total: Over/Under 50.5
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