The big story in the Denver Broncos’ 23-16 Divisional-round victory over Pittsburgh was Peyton Manning leading a game-winning touchdown drive. There were plenty of questions on whether Manning would even play any more this year after relinquishing his starting job due to injuries. However, Manning started the game and later led Denver to the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter, with C.J. Anderson punching it in for a decisive TD.
The Broncos will now play in the AFC Championship against the New England Patriots, who had a little easier time winning their Divisional-round contest. New England beat the Kansas City Chiefs 27-20 in a game that wasn’t as close as it appeared. Tom Brady connected on two touchdowns with tight end Rob Gronkowski early on, leaving the Chiefs playing catch-up the entire time.
Now the stage is set for a legendary Manning-vs-Brady matchup to determine who’ll go to the Super Bowl. Denver will have home-field advantage this Sunday, but New England is slightly favored on our line at GTBets.eu. So who has the better chance of covering the spread? Let’s break down why both teams could be a good wager along with some final analysis on the game.
GTBets.eu Line (Jan 24, 3:00pm EST)
New England -3 (-118)
Game Over 44.5 (-110)
Game Under 44.5 (-110)
Why Denver will cover the spread
One boost of confidence for Denver comes in the fact that they’ve already beaten New England this year. On Nov. 29, the Broncos topped the Patriots 30-24 in overtime. Denver piled up 179 rushing yards while the defense limited New England to just 39 yards on the ground.
Speaking of the running attack, this is where the Broncos have really excelled throughout much of the season. When they rush for at least 130 yards, they’re 7-0 this year. Assuming they can get their run game going against New England, this will set Manning up for some good play-action passes.
Finally, if this comes down to the wire, then Denver has a decided advantage. They’ve gone 10-3 in contests decided by a touchdown or less, and they’re 3-0 in overtime games. This is a tested team with a strong defense that knows how to win when things get close.
Why New England will cover the spread
New England has dealt with plenty of injuries this year – including recently losing linebacker Jerod Mayo – but they’ve still persevered thanks to the steady hand of Brady. The 38-year-old’s diet must really be working because he’s played as young as ever while tallying over 5,000 yards passing, 38 TD’s and just 6 INT’s this season (including playoffs).
Brady faced one of the league’s best defenses in the Chiefs last week and he was still highly efficient, completing 28-of-42 passes, racking up 302 passing yards and finding Gronk for two scores. If ever there were a reason to bet on New England, it’s the fact that Brady has been the best QB in the game this year.
It also doesn’t hurt that that his offensive line has been really good, despite early injuries to Ryan Wendell and Nate Solder. Even with rookie center David Andrews and first-year left guard Shaq Mason stepping in, this line hasn’t missed a beat and rarely gives up sacks. So it’s very possible that they could neutralize Denver’s feared front seven.
We should also add that New England’s defense hasn’t been too bad either, with their 49 sacks ranking second only to Denver. They also allow just 19.7 PPG, which is 10th in the league.
Manning winning against the Chiefs was a nice story, but one that may be short-lived. At 39 years old, Manning has a lot of wear and tear, which shows in the six games that he missed. No. 18 also hasn’t thrown a touchdown since Week 9, and he threw 17 interceptions despite only playing in 10 regular-season contests. Meanwhile, Brady, as we mentioned before, is playing his best football ever at age 38.
In the end, this may come down to the quarterbacks. And if it does, then we certainly expect New England to take the win at Mile High.
Final Score Prediction: New England 24 – Denver 16