New England Patriots (11-2 SU, 10-3 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (8-5 SU, 8-5 ATS)
Week 15 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, December 18, 2016 at 4:25PM EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: NE -3/DEN +3
Over/Under Total: 44
The New England Patriots come to Mile High to face the Denver Broncos in key week 15 AFC action. New England continued to shine on Monday with a 30-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens. It was their 4th straight win after suffering their second loss of the season to Seattle and their 11th overall win. The Broncos, meanwhile, have seen things start to get a bit sideways. With their 13-10 road loss to the Titans on Sunday, they have lost 2 out of 3 games and are a less-than-scintillating 4-5 since starting the season 4-0. And this is a tough week to get back on the winning track with the top team in the conference coming into town.
The Broncos are laboring a bit at this point in the season. Their defense is still top-notch, while the lack of firepower on offense threatens to undermine their whole season. And their defense has been less-than-fearsome at times lately, giving up 30 points twice in the last 5 games. Moving forward to the last three games of the season, they are hoping to see their "D" get into vintage form again, with their offense carrying a little more of the load.
Trevor Siemian has given it a good effort as Denver's starting quarterback. Injuries have caused him to miss a few games, but he's been gutty and looks to close the season strongly. It's an incomplete offense, devoid of a meaningful running-game. Sometimes, production doesn't lead to points. On Sunday against Tennessee, Siemian threw for 334 yards and the Broncos were able to create only 10 points. Devontae Booker hasn't delivered much on the ground. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are both nearing 1000 yards, but other than those two players, the production has been minimal from other players. Since week three, the Broncos have not scored over 27 points all season. Not helping is a line that hasn't been that good in protecting the QB or in springing the run game.
The Denver defense is really a big key to the Broncos team. They excel in rushing the passer with a top-notch pass-defense that will be looking to put New England's surging Tom Brady to the test. This season, Shane Ray, Derek Wolfe, Demarcus Ware, and Von Miller, who is tied for the league-sacks lead with 13.5, have been getting after quarterbacks. Against the pass, they are ranked as the best team in the league, with Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, TJ Ward, Bradley Roby, and Darian Stewart leading the way. No team has scored more than 30 points this season against the Broncos, but they need to rediscover their peak form. In the last month, they have lost touch with Oakland and Kansas City in the AFC West race and need to start compiling their wild card case.
New England had a tough game on their hands on MNF, requiring their full scope of powers to repel the Ravens challenge. In addition to the best record in the conference, they have a balanced team on both sides of the ball. Tom Brady has been excellent since coming back in week five. Only once has a team surpassed 25 points this season against this team. They have suffered some tough injuries and as usual, the strength of their team and their system and coaching have allowed them to continue thriving.
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So far, it hasn't appeared to hurt the Pats, but not having Rob Gronkowski is something that isn't easy to overcome. Over recent seasons, the game-changing tight end has missed a lot of time and the offense just isn't the same without "Gronk." But this is a team that is so strong in their system and coaching that nothing seems to ever derail them. Brady has been excellent with 22 touchdown throws and just two interceptions. Key to the Patriots' offense this season has been the performance of LeGarrette Blount, who is over 1000 yards with 14 touchdowns on the season. Through the air, Brady relies on Julian Edelman, Martellus Bennett, and Chris Hogan, whose late TD catch for 79 yards was a big part of the Pats win on MNF.
The New England defense is second in the league in points allowed with just 17.7 points a game. They've been especially effective against the opposing run-game all season. On Monday, they kept the Ravens' run-game in check, though Joe Flacco was well over 300 yards. They can sometimes be exploited aerially, though they are usually adept in preventing that from getting too out of hand. For better than the first 2 and a half quarters of the game, the Pats held the Ravens to a mere field goal of scoring. They have one of the best middles in the league, with Rob Ninkovich, Don't'a Hightower, and Shea McClellin. They've been a big part of the 11-2 start this season for the Patriots.
This is a tough spot for the Patriots. They are coming off the short week, playing in a place where the conditions are bad enough without weather. It should be pretty cold on Sunday and combined with the altitude, this isn't an easy spot. With Denver really pining hard to get back on the winning track with that defense, this might not be a great spot for the Pats. I'm taking the home dog.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Denver Broncos plus three points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the New England vs. Denver game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!