Our final salvo: Bluntly, New England Patriots

Jan 14, 2014 3:00 AM

The football season is winding down with just three more games left to play, so this will be our final NFL pick for GamingToday. Our focus is the AFC Championship Game.

Take New England +4½: The Patriots are back in position for a return to the Super Bowl after rolling over Indianapolis, 43-22, this past Saturday night as a 7.5-point home favorite in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Patriots earned a first-round bye as the second seed in the AFC with an overall record of 12-4 straight-up. They are now 9-8 ATS, including three straight covers.

Tom Brady completed 13-of-25 passes for 198 yards against the Colts, but it was New England’s running game that made the most noise in this game. LeGarrette Blount rushed for 166 yards on 24 carries with four of those runs making it all the way to the end zone. Overall, the Patriots gained 234 yards on the ground on a total of 46 attempts. New England’s defense gave-up 386 total yards, but like most of the season, this bend-but-do-not-break mentality came up with the big plays when it needed to the most.

The Broncos earned the top spot in the conference with a SU record of 13-3 and they went 10-6 ATS. This included a 5-3 record ATS at home with the total going OVER in five of the eight games. Denver faced a familiar foe in the divisional round as an 8-point home favorite against San Diego. It appeared to have things well in hand with a 17-point lead halfway through the fourth quarter, but a few breakdowns on defense down the stretch resulted in a tight 24-17 victory.

Everyone knows just how potent Peyton Manning and Denver’s offense can be after leading the league in scoring with 37.9 points a game, but there has to be some genuine concern with a defense that is No. 27 in the NFL against the pass and No. 22 in points allowed (24.9). No lead is safe with this bunch, especially with Brady lining up on the other side of the ball.

These two teams met in Week 12 of the regular season with the Patriots coming out on top, 34-31, in an overtime shootout. The betting line for that game closed with New England favored by one point at home and a total line of 54. The Pats have won five of the last six meetings both SU and ATS, dating back to the 2008 season.

Both of these teams’ future NFL “Hall of Fame” quarterbacks have had their issues lately on some of the game’s biggest stages in the postseason, but stick with Brady to once again outduel Manning to help his team return to the Super Bowl after a one-year hiatus.


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