Betting Against the Spread on the AFC Championship
The AFC Championship in 2016 features the New England Patriots for the fifth straight year, the first time a team has accomplished that feat since 1973-77, when the Oakland Raiders appeared in five straight semifinals. Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh Steelers were also a dominant team in the 1970s, which is one reason why the Raiders did not get as much fame from that decade as they otherwise would have. New England heads to Denver (having lost the #1 seed when they dropped the last two games of the regular season) to face the Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, and kickoff is at 3:05pm Eastern time on CBS. The Broncos are 3.5-point underdogs at home, and the over/under total is 45 points. Let’s take a look at your best bet in this matchup.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 20, 2016
Why should you bet on Denver (+3.5)?
Even though this is Brady-Manning V (their fifth meeting in the playoffs and their fourth meeting in an AFC Championship), this is not a contest between two dueling gunslingers. This has not been a strong year for Peyton Manning, as he is clearly showing signs of age. The Broncos are in the AFC Championship because Brock Osweiler came on to play when Manning went down to rib and foot injuries and kept the team competitive — but largely because of their defense. Their front seven is one of the best in the entire NFL, harassing running games and keeping passers from getting comfortable in the pocket. That defense has kept the Broncos in games, week after week, and was a huge factor in the Broncos’ win over New England during the regular season. Manning showed a lot of grit in the fourth quarter against San Diego in Week 17, and again in the fourth quarter of the divisional round win over Pittsburgh, but it is the salty defense that will drive the Broncos in this game.
Why should you bet on New England (-3.5)?
Just because the Patriots faded down the stretch doesn’t mean that you should count them out here. They had been missing Julian Edelman since Week 9, and their offense had suffered mightily as a result. With just Rob Gronkowski to go to as a primo target, Brady’s dropback times went up and his efficiency went (slightly) down, and the offense grew stagnant. The Patriots really don’t run the ball, but Brady is such a quality passer (77 percent accuracy in the regular season and 78 percent in the divisional game) that it doesn’t really matter. They zip the ball out quickly, relying on precise route running and yards after catch to get them down the field. The Broncos suffered when the Steelers ran that sort of attack in the divisional game, and they could easily suffer again when the Patriots get their quick passing game out.
Expert Pick and Final Score Prediction
The Broncos have gamely overcome obstacle after obstacle this season, but the Patriots will have another gear on offense this Sunday with Edelman back in the game. I like the Patriots to win, 31-24.