This is more than just a match-up between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots. It is a match-up between their two quarterbacks (4.25pm ET, Sunday).
Before the season began, this week five quarterback clash was considered one of the most intriguing games for bettors. The prospect of seeing the Peyton Manning and Tom Brady rivalry one more time has football fans salivating.
Like the rest of the sporting world, I will inevitably get into why this duel of the greats is going to be spectacular. Before I do, let’s address some other factors that could decide which team walks away with the win. And can Denver (+235 on the moneyline) win even with a +6.5 point head start on the sportsbooks’ spread?
Broncos’ Deadly Duo of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil
The 23-year-old linebacker Von Miller and 28-year-old defensive end Elvis Dumervil combined to be a lethal duo in putting pressure on the quarterback last season. With two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and 21 sacks between the two, Miller and Dumervil were one of the NFL’s most skilled pairs when it came to the pass rush.
This season, it has been more of the same for the Denver duo as Dumervil already has 16 tackles, one forced fumble and 2.5 sacks. Miller has also been involved with 15 tackles and three sacks.
Against teams with better O-lines than the New England Patriots, the deadly duo have gotten to the quarterback with regularity. On top of the sacks, these two have performed well in making the opposing quarterback tentative and flustered causing him to make mistakes. This is something that won’t show up in the stat sheets but is important to winning games. It is partially because of this pass rushing duo tandem that the Broncos have allowed just 220.5 passing yards and 87.5 rushing yards a game.
Two Teams, Two Balanced Offensive Attacks
Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are no doubt two of the best quarterbacks still playing the game and as a result, their offenses are two of the best as well.
Both of these quarterbacks know how to effectively and efficiently spread the ball around and both are surrounded with talent that makes this easy to do.
I’ll start with the Patriots. Last year, Brady compiled one of his best seasons in the NFL. He threw for 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns, all of which were spread out among his offensive cast. Leading the way was tight end Rob Gronkowski who finished the season as the all-time best tight end in NFL history with 17 touchdowns and 1,327 pass yards. In revolutionizing the two tight end set, Brady also utilized Aaron Hernandez who caught 79 passes for 910 yards and seven touchdowns. 14 of the remaining 15 touchdowns went to Wes Welker (9) and Deion Branch (5).
This season Brady has thrown seven touchdown passes to five different receivers. As a result, New England has the NFL’s best offense, averaging a league leading 33.5 points a game and 438.2 yards a game. Brady and the pass game is ranked sixth with 294.2 yards and the running game, normally non-existent in a Bill Bellichick scheme, has run for 144 yards a game, eighth best in the NFL.
Finding a way to cover all of these targets will be a tough task for the Denver defense but it is worth noting that the New England defense won’t exactly have a picnic dealing with the Broncos offensive core as well.
Manning may not have Gronkowski or Welker to pass to but he does have an array of targets that are reliable and talented. He has spread the ball mostly to his top two wide receivers, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker and as a result these two are the only pair of receivers in the NFL this year with 320 yards each.
In addition to the dynamic duo, Manning also has effectively used his tight ends this year. Finding comfort in former Colt teammate Jacob Tamme, Manning has targeted him to the amount of 15 receptions for 125 yards and a TD. Fellow Bronco tight end Joel Dreessen has also seen his fair share of targets. He has seven receptions for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
The Match-up of a Decade: Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady
It is rooted in a historical perspective and could in fact have playoff implications. It is the match-up, for just the second time in NFL history, that two quarterbacks each with 125 wins will face each other. It is a rivalry that isn’t really a rivalry in that it is borne in mutual respect and admiration instead of hate and competition. Sure Brady and Manning want to beat other on the field, sure they both want to add to their Superbowl titles. But in the end, they are just two guys, two of the most talented football players of all-time and two quarterbacks whose names will go down in history.
Yes the Peyton Manning/Tom Brady rivalry is based in the past but to talk simply about the history of this rivalry wouldn’t be beneficial to anyone betting on this game. What I will focus on however is the future of this rivalry in terms of this game and this season.
I already spoke about the offenses of these two teams and the defense of Denver, but what I didn’t talk about is the context of what it means when these two teams play each other.
Currently, Denver holds the regular season series by a score of 25-17. Brady however holds the edge against Manning in their head-to-head match-ups although Manning has gained steam as of late winning five of his last seven against Brady and the Patriots. This is the first time the rivalry will span more than just the Colts and Patriots also as it is the first game these two will play since Manning joined the Broncos.
Broncos v Patriots Betting Picks
The Denver defense is much the same team that got burned by Brady and the offense last year in the playoffs. That said, even with the strength of the Patriots offense, I don’t think Manning, unlike Tebow, will let this one get out of hand.
- Take the Patriots to win outright but bet on the Broncos to win the money on the spread. Wager on the Denver Broncos +6.5 points @ -110 with BetOnline Sportsbook. It is a similar story with Bovada who go +7pts @ -115. Non-Americans bet with Bet365.