Sunday’s Conference Championship game is between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos but Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are at the epicenter in one of the league’s greatest all-time quarterback rivalries!
When Tom Brady and Peyton Manning met for the first time they were division rivals playing for the Patriots and Indianapolis Colts in the pre-realignment version of the AFC East. Brady was a backup for Drew Bledsoe but he stepped onto the field in Week 4 after Bledsoe was injured and by the time the dust settled on the 2001 season, Brady was showing off his first of several Super Bowl rings to come.
The history between these two has provided us with plenty of excitement and together they have logged well over 500 professional games but today, all that matters to either of these legends is their next ‘W’. All that matters to bettors is the 3-point line, the 44.5-point total and perhaps the team totals, first-half lines and if you’re really sick — some NFL props. Hey, Super Bowl is around the corner; what better time to brush up your skills on bets you’d never make between September and December?
PATRIOTS AT BRONCOS
NFL Odds: New England -3 and O/U 44.5
The Pats are defending their fourth Lombardi Trophy and this is the fourth time in Patriots’ history they’ve been seeking revenge in the playoffs for a recent loss as the defending champ and they are 2-1 SU/ATS. In January, 2005, they beat the Steelers 41-27 as a 3-point road favorite in the Conference Championship game and went onto beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl. One year later, New England lost a playoff revenge game as champ vs. the Denver Broncos when Jake Plummer was the starter. To think that Plummer was EVER favored by -3.5 points over Brady is a bit disturbing, but the results speak for themselves.
Denver’s defense ranked 7th overall in 2005 and the Patriots were 24th. It’s a similar gap to the one we’re looking at today but the Patriots offense right now is miles ahead of Denver’s, despite the Broncos’ standout receivers and two-pronged running attack. Manning cannot be trusted to make the type of throws he’ll need to make under pressure against a Patriot secondary that picked off 12 balls during the regular season. The aging vet threw at least one pick in every one of his regular season starts this season and as we saw last week against Pittsburgh, just one costly turnover could decide this matchup.
The third Patriot SU/ATS win as champs seeking revenge was last week against Kansas City. Brady completed 28 of 42 passes for 302 yards with two majors and no interceptions. The Pats led the league in fewest giveaways this season (0.8 per game) and Denver’s greatest defensive asset — QB pressure — is somewhat nullified here by Brady’s 2.0-second release of the football after the snap.
New England’s team total for this game is listed at 24 flat with online sportsbooks and if you’re looking for a total on this game, the “Over” on that play is worth consideration. The first-half “Over” 21.5 is another play I had written down and the Pats’ first-half TT is 11.5 but the juice on that is -130; too rich for my blood. My top pick on this game is for the Pats to cover.
Pick: Take the PATRIOTS