Tag Archives: Denver Broncos

NFL Week 11 Odds, Predictions and Picks against the spread

John Morgan
November 19, 2017 at 11:00 am ET

The Patriots versus Raiders in Mexico City highlights a decent slate of pro football games in Week 11. Four games in particular stand out, conveniently with one in each time slot.

The day kicks off with a matchup of division leaders, a rarity in the early time slot. The 7-2 Rams have won four straight and bring their top ranked offense (32.9 ppg) to Minnesota. The 7-2 Vikings have won five in a row and are allowing just 18.3 points per game. Minnesota is listed as a 2½ point favorite.

The Patriots and Raiders renew their decades long rivalry in the late afternoon time slot. New England puts a five game winning streak on the line in their second consecutive game on the road at high altitude. The Patriots need a win to keep pace with Pittsburgh for the best record in the AFC, and to maintain their two game lead in the AFC East. 4-5 Oakland has been inconsistent this year but still possess plenty of talent on offense. The Raiders need a victory to keep hopes of winning the AFC West alive.

Sunday night has a good game with Philadelphia at Dallas. The Eagles own the NFL’s best record at 8-1, and have a league-high seven game winning streak. The 5-4 Cowboys need a win to stay in contention for a wild card spot, as nine other NFC teams have at least five wins. With all that has been happening off the field for Jerry Jones, a victory would be sweet. The Jerrah now knows first hand with what it is like to be on the wrong side of Roger Goodell’s erratic system of lies punishment.

Week 11 wraps up with a good game on Monday Night. 5-4 Atlanta travels to Seattle to play the 6-3 Seahawks. The defending NFC champs are in third place, two games behind New Orleans. The Falcons need a win here to not only stay close in the NFC South, but to just keep up as a wild card contender. Seattle is only one game behind the Rams in the NFC West but they have bigger issues. The Seahawks will be without Pro Bowl CB Richard Sherman (ruptured Achilles’ tendon) and Pro Bowl SS Kam Chancellor (neck stinger).

For a full list of announcers and to see what games are being broadcast in your are, please check JP Kirby’s 506 Sports.

Early Games on Fox

5-4 Detroit Lions at 3-6 Chicago Bears
Lions favored by 3; over/under 41 points; money line -150, +130

The Bears continue to find a way to lose close games. Mitch Trubisky has a bright future but right now he’s going through the growing pains of being a rookie quarterback on a bad football team.

Pick: Lions 21, Bears 17
Detroit -3, under 41

 

3-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 4-5 Miami Dolphins
Pick’em; over/under 41½ points; money line -110, -110

How much of a distraction will the Uber allegations against Jameis Winston be for the Bucs? This game comes down to which CB gets burnt more badly, Miami’s Xavien Howard or Tampa’s nickel duo of Javien Elliott and Robert McClain.

Pick: Buccaneers 20, Dolphins 17
Tampa Bay -0, under 41½

 

7-2 Los Angeles Rams at 7-2 Minnesota Vikings
Vikings favored by 2½; over/under 45½ points; money line -135, +115

Most of the talk has been about Jared Goff and the #1 LA offense against a tough Viking defense. The Rams are well balanced, with Aaron Donald leading the way in Wade Phillips’ defense. LA is allowing just 18.0 points per game and has forced 19 turnovers. Keep an eye on Viking WR Adam Thielen. The D-2 receiver has five games with at least 90 yards receiving, and at least five receptions in all nine games.

Pick: Rams 24, Vikings 20
Los Angeles +2½, under 45½

 

4-5 Washington Redskins at 7-2 New Orleans Saints
Saints favored by 7½; over/under 51½ points; money line -380, +310

The Saints are playing well in all three phases of the game. The offense is far more productive with more emphasis on the running game, keeping opposing defenses off balance. Net result is a 7-game winning streak, tied with Philadelphia for the longest in the NFL this season. Make that eight straight over the injury depleted Skins.

Pick: Saints 31, Redskins 21
New Orleans -7½, over 51½

 

4-5 Arizona Cardinals at 3-6 Houston Texans
Texans favored by 1½; over/under 37½ points; money line -125, +105

You want to know why ratings are down? Games where the starting quarterbacks are Tom Savage and Drew Stanton may have something to do with that.

Pick: Cardinals 19, Texans 16
Arizona +1½, under 37½

 

Early Games on CBS

6-3 Kansas City Chiefs at 1-8 New York Giants
Chiefs favored by 10; over/under 46 points; money line -500, +400

Remember when preseason prognosticators were predicting that the Giants would win the division and contend for the Super Bowl? Now Big Blue is a double-digit underdog at home and instead in contention for the number one pick in the 2018 draft.

Pick: Chiefs 34, Giants 10
Kansas City -10, under 46

 

4-5 Baltimore Ravens at 5-4 Green Bay Packers
Ravens favored by 2; over/under 38 points; money line -130, +110

Brett Hundley looked awful in his first two games, but was improved last week. Packer RB Jamaal will need a productive day to counter Baltimore’s blitz-heavy defense on a cold (33) and windy (12-25) day.

Pick: Packers 20, Ravens 17
Green Bay +2, under 38

 

6-3 Jacksonville Jaguars at 0-9 Cleveland Browns
Jaguars favored by 7½; over/under 37 points; money line -380, +310

Jacksonville may be without their top four receivers, so it will be imperative that the Jags get their running game in gear. Jacksonville’s offensive line has performed well this year, with the Jaguars averaging an NFL best 163 yards rushing per game. Cleveland’s run defense has been their lone bright spot. The Browns are allowing an NFL-low 3.1 yards per carry and just 86 yards rushing per game.

Pick: Browns 20, Jaguars 16
Cleveland +7½, under 37

 

Late Afternoon Games

5-4 Buffalo Bills at 3-6 Los Angeles Chargers, 4:05 ET on Fox
Chargers favored by 5½; over/under 41½ points; money line -250, +210

Nathan Peterman gets the start at quarterback over benched Tyrod Taylor. Expecting a rookie QB to win on the road in his first NFL start is a tall order, even though the Chargers have virtually no home field advantage.

Pick: Chargers 27, Bills 16
Los Angeles -5½, over 41½

 

3-6 Cincinnati Bengals at 3-6 Denver Broncos, 4:25 ET on CBS
Broncos favored by 2½; over/under 38½ points; money line -145, +125

Denver has lost five straight and Bronco fans are pointing their fingers at everybody, including John Elway. If the Bengal secondary could not cover Tennessee receivers last week, what will they do at Mile High against Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders?

Pick: Broncos 23, Bengals 20
Denver -2½, over 38½

 

7-2 New England Patriots vs 4-5 Oakland Raiders
4:25 pm ET on CBS, at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City
Patriots favored by 7; over/under 54½ points; money line -320, +270

Jack Tatum. Daryl Stingley. Russ Francis. George Atkinson. Phil Villapiano. Ray Hamilton. Ben Dreith. Stop whining about the Tuck Rule, Raider fans. You scored six points on your final ten possessions of that game, and failed to stop the Patriots on three of their last four possessions.Pats improve to 19-15-1 all time in this series.

Pick: Patriots 31, Raiders 17
New England -7, under 54½

 

Prime Time Games

8-1 Philadelphia Eagles at 5-4 Dallas Cowboys
Sunday night at 8:30 pm ET on NBC
Eagles favored by 5½; over/under 48 points; money line -240, +200

Carson Wentz has thrown 17 touchdown passes against three interceptions in the last five games. Dallas has not been able to contain good quarterbacks and high scoring offenses this year. The Cowboys gave up 35 points in home losses to the Packers and Rams, and 27 points at Atlanta last week.

Pick: Eagles 31, Cowboys 20
Philadelphia -5½, over 48

 

5-4 Atlanta Falcons at 6-3 Seattle Seahawks
Seahawks favored by 3; over/under 45 points; money line -150, +130
Monday night at 8:30 pm ET on espn

The Seahawks are in a difficult situation, playing without CB Richard Sherman and SS Kam Chancellor. Seattle does benefit with the return of FS Earl Thomas, and Atlanta RB Devonta Freeman (concussion) is out. This could easily go either way; it’s tough to pick against Seattle at home. Former Patriot Justin Coleman gets the start at corner in place of Sherman.

Pick: Seahawks 24, Falcons 20
Seattle -3, under 45

 

Bye Week:
7-3 Carolina Panthers
3-7 Indianapolis Colts
4-6 New York Jets
1-9 San Francisco 49ers

 

For a sneak peak at next week’s games, check out NFL Week 12 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead Lines: Pats favored by 14.5 vs Miami.

 

NFL Week 12 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats favored by 14.5 vs Miami

John Morgan
at 6:00 am ET

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has published their latest NFL Advanced Betting Lines. These early odds are posted prior to the following week’s games, including this past Thursday’s game between Pittsburgh and Tennessee. Also known as Look-Ahead lines, they give the adventurous sports fan an opportunity to wager on games up to twelve days away. Early lines offer a short opportunity to get a jump on odds that could be less favorable after Sunday’s games.

The good news is that this the bye weeks are over, and that Thanksgiving Day gives us three games to feast on.

On paper the NFL Week 12 schedule does not offer many close games. Eleven games have a spread of 6½ or more and two games list odds of three points or less. The New England Patriots are the heaviest favorites, at -14½ at home versus Miami. Two other home teams are also double-digit favorites. Chicago is at Philadelphia (-11½) and Green Bay plays at Pittsburgh (-12½) next Sunday night.

Home favorites also have the narrowest odds. The Vikings are at Detroit (-1½) in an important NFC North game, and the Rams (-1½) host New Orleans in one of the late afternoon matchups. The only road favorites are Carolina (at the Jets), Tennessee at Indy, Seattle at San Francisco, and Jacksonville at Arizona.

NFL Week 12 Early Odds

Thanksgiving Day, Thursday Nov 24
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (-1½) 12:30 pm ET on Fox
Los Angeles Chargers at Dallas Cowboys (-4), 4:30 pm ET on CBS
New York Giants at Washington Redskins (-8½), 8:30 pm ET on NBC

Sunday Nov 26 at 1:00 pm ET on CBS
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-8)
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-14½)
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-7½)

Sunday Nov 26 at 1:00 pm ET on Fox
Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles (-11½)
Tampa Bay Bucs at Atlanta Falcons (-9)
Carolina Panthers (-4) at New York Jets
Tennessee Titans (-6½) at Indianapolis Colts

Sunday Nov 26 late afternoon games
Seattle Seahawks (-8½) at San Francisco 49ers, 4:00 pm ET on Fox
New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams (-1½), 4:30 pm on CBS
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3½) at Arizona Cardinals, 4:30 pm ET on CBS
Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders (-6½), 4:30 pm ET on CBS

Prime Time Games, 8:30 pm ET
Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers (-12½), Sunday November 26 on NBC
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens (-7½), Monday November 27 on espn

 

At first glance I like the Vikings (+1½), Rams (-1½), Washington (-8½), Bucs +9 and Packers +12½.

 

Podcast: Patriots Win In Mile High

Russ Goldman
November 14, 2017 at 12:25 pm ET

In this episode, we discussed the Patriots victory against the Broncos. Later on, we previewed the game against the Raiders in Mexico. We also debated the situation with Martellus Bennett as he returned to the Patriots.

Patriots  Week 10 Report Card, Dominate Broncos on the Road

Steve Balestrieri
at 9:30 am ET

The Patriots quickly put the Denver Broncos in the rear view mirror due to outstanding special teams play on Sunday night and then with a tremendous offensive game plan, kept Denver’s defense off-balance and in chase mode all night long in a 41-16 rout.

With the stadium at Mile High in Denver has been a house of horrors for the Patriots, they’ve now won there in back-to-back seasons. Even more importantly, the win allows the Patriots to keep pace with Pittsburgh having the best record in the AFC at 7-2 and opened up a two-game lead in the AFC East due to Buffalo getting spanked at home by New Orleans.

So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: A

The “No-Fly Zone” didn’t apply to Tom Brady on Sunday night. Denver’s strength on defense is their three cornerbacks, who are arguably the best in the NFL and their pass rush. So Josh McDaniels and Brady did the smart thing. They got the ball out quickly to negate the pass rush and attacked their weakness, the linebackers in coverage.

In our pregame matchups we pointed out that the place to attack was the linebackers with the tight ends and backs. And Brady was absolutely clinical in doing so, Denver had no answer for that. Brady’s first touchdown was to Rex Burkhead who easily beat his coverage on a skinny post to open the scoring.

Brady used play action passing to freeze the linebackers on more than one occasion but the best one was arguably on the deep 26-yard completion to Gronkowski where there was a huge gap in the coverage. Brady finished 25-34 for 266 yards with three touchdowns and should have had a fourth with the call on Gronkowski being called incomplete when the ball never touched the ground.

Brian Hoyer got to come in late and got in a bit of working going 3-3 including a really nicely designed and conducted screen pass to Brandin Cooks that went for 27 yards.

Running Backs: A-

The running backs were part of the focus this week and they didn’t disappoint. On a night where Mike Gillislee was a healthy scratch, Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis were the focal points and both had very solid outings.

While the running game wasn’t dominant, it was good enough. Denver, other than last week in Philly has been very stout against the run and getting just under 100 yards kept the defense honest and allowed Brady to run play action.

Lewis didn’t have a catch but was good in the running game, lugging the ball between the tackles. Burkhead provided good power also between the tackles, moving the pile a few times in short yardage and picking up a key fourth down run. He was also very productive in the passing game. Both featured key moments on STs which we’ll get to below.

James White didn’t get a ton of snaps this week but he had a nice touchdown reception from Brady where he put an excellent move on safety Will Parks and had an easy pitch and catch for the score. James Develin was outstanding in run support getting the ball carriers to the second level.

Wide Receivers: B-

This was more by design than anything else. The team was shorthanded with Chris Hogan out so, they attacked the Denver weak spots using the backs and tight ends. However, they kept Denver’s secondary honest by targeting Cooks 11 times, mostly in short underneath routes. Phillip Dorsett and Danny Amendola were only targeted six times total but responded with six catches.

On a night the coaches were putting the onus elsewhere, the wide receivers still had decent production and did exactly what was asked of them.

Tight Ends: B-

Rob Gronkowski had a typical Gronkowski evening, seeing double, at times triple coverage down close to the goal line but still had good production with four catches for 74 yards. He also had a diving 19-yard catch for a touchdown erased by an official ruling that the ball hit the ground, but we’ve beat that horse to death enough.

Martellus Bennett was back in a Patriots uniform and although he played only about 8 snaps made his presence felt, catching 3 passes for 38 yards. His first catch was a big 27-yarder where the Broncos had a communication breakdown (other teams have them too), and two linebackers went after Burkhead leaving Bennett all alone.

Dwayne Allen finally got a catch and it was a big one, a touchdown catch where he was held by Von Miller and then made a nice catch on an outside pass by Brady. He was also very good in the running game. Jacob Hollister didn’t play on offense but had a couple of big plays on Special Teams.

Offensive Line: A

The offensive line heard all week about the fearsome Denver pass rush especially by Von Miller. Miller was facing backup swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle filling in for injured Marcus Cannon at right tackle and had one pressure all night on Brady. Waddle, receiving little extra help, was mainly left on his own and held up extremely well. Ditto for Nate Solder. Shane Ray on the other side was relegated to milk carton status. The only sack given up was on a safety blitz where James White uncharacteristically whiffed on a pass block, with Brady getting sacked inside Denver’s 10 yard forcing a field goal.

The run blocking was okay but not great. But the bottom line is that the Patriots scored on seven straight possessions. That doesn’t happen…ever unless Brady is getting excellent protection. And yes they aced this test.

Defensive Line: B-

The Patriots defensive line was good but not great in this one. They did a decent job of defending the run although the Broncos did have a couple of really good chunk plays, most of those came after the team was comfortably ahead. But they were stout in the red zone which is a plus, with the Broncos scoring only one touchdown.

The pass rush however was virtually non-existent. Brock Osweiler was nearly as comfortable as Brady was in the pocket. This will be an area to monitor moving forward but they couldn’t get any consistent pressure even when Matt Patricia dialed up some blitzes.

Linebackers: B-

Kyle Van Noy gets high marks for his continuing high level of play all over the field. With Hightower gone for the year, Van Noy calls the signals for the defense and will rush the passer, cover the backs in the flat and drop into coverage. He read a play perfectly and blasted in dropping Jamaal Charles for a loss on one running play. David Harris got the most work of the season and was very good in run support and put a jarring hit on TE Jeff Heuerman knocking the ball loose. Elandon Roberts got good pressure on an A-Gap delay blitz and forced Osweiler to unload the ball.

Special teamers Marquis Flowers and Trevor Reilly got some work in as Matt Patricia worked everyone into the system and all played well.

Secondary: B

While Malcolm Butler had a very rough first half, Emmanuel Sanders had 114 yards receiving by halftime. He recovered however, and played tough and physical in the second half where Sanders could manage just 23 yards after the break. It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination but Butler has a short memory and he doesn’t get down or sulk when he’s not playing well.

Stephon Gilmore returned from his concussion and played well. He was tasked with coverage on Demaryius Thomas and neutralized him quite well. Thomas had five catches for 44 yards. In Thomas’ nine games previously against the Patriots he has averaged 92.5 yards per game and 16.6 yards per reception. Thomas did snag a touchdown on Gilmore but that was just a well designed play by Osweiler. His play action fake froze the linebackers just long enough and Roberts didn’t get a deep enough drop where he’d have been right in the throwing lane. Thomas had inside position on Gilmore and made the catch for the score.

Devin McCourty was his normally solid self in centerfield and was forced to make a couple of key tackles when Sanders was getting loose. Pat Chung and Duron Harmon played well and Chung got an interception off of Osweiler when he read the play and jumped the route in front of Heuerman.

Special Teams: A+

The Special Teams get very high marks this week for turning in three tremendous big plays that easily turned this game into the laugher that it was. After the Pats were held to a three and out on their first possession, Jonathan Jones flew up the field on punt coverage and Broncos returner Isaiah McKenzie, who has shown a tendency for bobbling punts muffed this one. Jones blasted him, allowing Jacob Hollister to recover the ball. The Patriots would then score on seven straight possessions.

Dion Lewis had a 103-yard kickoff return for a score getting several key blocks including good ones from Hollister and Dwayne Allen. Once he reached the outside, he had clear sailing and no one was going to catch him. That silenced the crowd quickly.

Rex Burkhead came clean on a punt block after a fantastic play by Brandon Bolden freed him up. Bolden caused his man to step out wide and Burkhead burst thru the gap like he was shot out of a cannon. That set the Patriots up with a short field for a score.

Stephen Gostkowski’s kickoffs were a stake in the heart of the Broncos. He dropped them just short of the goal line time and again and the coverage units were outstanding. Trevor Reilly unloaded on McKenzie on one where it was amazing that McKenzie was able to hold onto the ball.

Denver made the night complete by jumping offside on a 4th and 5 where the Patriots lined up to punt. The first down resulted in the Patriots putting another score on the board where they completed a 16-play, 94-yard drive.

Coaches: A

Bill Belichick’s team had two weeks to prepare to face a team that always seems to have its way with New England at home. Belichick and the staff came up with a fantastic game plan to attack the middle of the field with the tight ends and running backs and they simply eviscerated a very good, very proud defense where they scored on seven straight possessions. That doesn’t happen very often, if at all to Denver at home.

The players were focused and executed the game plan extremely well. Belichick likes to talk about producing in “All 3 Phases” of the game. The team did it and more. They allowed only one touchdown and just 16 points on defense, scored 41 points and had tremendous splash plays on special teams.

This was the perfect way to start off the second half of the season and a long road trip that will feature five of the next six games on the road.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Special Teams, Dominant In Blowout Win Over Denver

Steve Balestrieri
November 13, 2017 at 9:10 am ET

One of the few complaints heard around Patriots Nation centers around Bill Belichick’s insistence on having so many players on the roster that contribute only on special teams. Sunday night’s game in Denver should put that argument to rest for quite awhile.

For the second game in a row, the Patriots special teams units were a huge difference in the game and were a big reason why the team was victorious.

New England and Denver are teams heading in opposite directions. The Patriots have won five in a row while the Broncos have dropped five straight. A major reason why this game turned into a blowout was the dominance of the Patriots STs units and Denver’s continued awful special teams play. The Broncos are done now, and can only play the spoiler. And it wasn’t the play of their QBs this week, it was their special teams and defense.

There were four huge plays by Joe Judge’s units that turned this game from a potentially close game into a rout. Let me caveat this by saying something straight out. I’ve been hearing the “Special Teams was the only reason the Patriots won” narrative. That doesn’t give hardly enough credit to Tom Brady and the offense. The Patriots offense scored on seven straight possessions. The Denver defense couldn’t stop the Patriots offense all night long. But back to the four key special teams plays.

  • After the Patriots went three and out on their opening possession, they were forced to punt. Ryan Allen’s punt had very good hang time and Jonathan Jones put pressure on Isaiah McKenzie and he muffed the punt. Jones blasted McKenzie and rookie Jacob Hollister recovered the ball and the offense was in business. It was a huge turn of events. Brady later hit Rex Burkhead for a 14-yard touchdown and the Patriots were off and running.
  • Denver answered by driving down and kicking a field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, Denver kicked three yards deep to Dion Lewis. Lewis found a seam and burst thru the poor coverage by the Broncos and raced 103 yards for a touchdown. He received two key blocks by reserve tight ends Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister along the way
  • Rex Burkhead, who had a good night on the offense, provided the third key special teams play of the night. He burst thru the interior on a Denver punt and smothered the kick for a key punt block. The short field allowed the Patriots to kick a field goal. Which should have been a touchdown. I’m still waiting to the see the ball hit the ground there…
  • The final key play was early in the fourth quarter. The Patriots had started on their own six-yard line at the end of the third quarter. They moved to the Denver 41 where the drive stalled. But on 4th and 5, Denver jumped offside on the punt giving Brady and offense a fresh set of downs. Seven plays later Brady put the dagger in with a touchdown pass to James White, finishing a 16-play, 94-yard drive that took 7:31 seconds off the clock.

The Patriots special teams have been steadily improving as the season winds along. In their last game against San Diego, they tackled a punt returner for a safety and Lewis ran back a kickoff in that one of 71 yards. The coverage units have been outstanding and Stephen Gostkowski’s kickoffs are putting teams constantly in the hole behind the 25-yard line.

The only downer from the game was ST’s Captain Matthew Slater, pulling a hamstring in the game last night and not returning.

But if they continue to play at this kind of high level, the sky is the limit. They can match up with just about anyone they play and having an STs unit that can give the team a boost like that is outstanding.

We’re on to Mexico….

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Smother Broncos 41-16, Move to 7-2, Quick Observations

Steve Balestrieri
at 12:50 am ET

Don’t look now but the Patriots have the same record as they did last year after nine games. And they won their fifth game in a row but blasting the Denver Broncos in Denver, winning there for the second season in a row 41-16 on Sunday Night Football.

The story of the game was the play of the Patriots Specials Teams. As we stated in our pregame matchups, Denver’s STs play has been awful and that would be an area to watch. A muffed punt, a blocked punt, a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Dion Lewis and a too many man on the field penalty on a punt which resulted in a first down was just one of the nightmares that Denver will have to live with.

And the vaunted Denver pass rush was rendered immaterial by a tremendous game plan by Josh McDaniels and superior execution by Tom Brady. The Broncos have as talented a trio of cornerbacks as anyone. So Brady and the Patriots didn’t challenge them, they ignored them and worked the middle of the field with the tight ends and running backs and Denver couldn’t stop them. The Patriots scored on seven straight possessions until late in the fourth quarter when the game was over.

Brady was cool, calm and collected and consistently found the open man. He finished 25-34 for 266 yards and 3 TDs and no interceptions. He completed passes to nine different receivers and at least six of them had three or more catches. Rex Burkhead, with Mike Gillislee inactive, picked up a bunch of his slack and had a heck of a game. He carried 10 times for 36 yards, had 3 catches for 27 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown which opened the scoring and blocked a punt.

Denver can’t blame this blowout loss on the quarterback this week. Brock Osweiler played a pretty solid game, completing 18 of 33 passes for 221 yards with a TD and an interception. The vast majority of his success came with his finding Emmanuel Sanders open. Sanders caught 6 passes for 137 yards on the night with 114 of them coming in the first half. He gave Malcolm Butler fits all night long.

Other observations include:
LaAdrian Waddle Gets a Game Ball: How many times did we hear Von Miller’s name tonight? Waddle, filling in for an injured Marcus Cannon played a heckuva great game at right tackle. But the offensive line overall was outstanding. Denver’s strength is their pass rush and Brady had a clean pocket to work from nearly all night long. Nate Solder was also outstanding, as Shane Ray was invisible. The only sack Denver got was on a safety blitz and James White had a rare miss in pass blocking.

But Waddle gets very high marks tonight. Denver had to see that matchup as a mismatch but Waddle, frequently out there alone, more than held his own.

Gilmore Returns and Has a Very Solid Night: Stephon Gilmore returned from his concussion and played a very good game matching up with Demaryius Thomas. Gilmore had Osweiler looking elsewhere almost all night long. Thomas ended up with 5 catches for 44 yards with the one touchdown where he beat Gilmore on a slant but for the most part, was rendered ineffective. Gilmore looked sharp all night long and his return is definitely a good sign for the defense…

Matt Patricia’s Crew is Getting it Figured Out:  With the exception of Malcolm Butler who had a rough night with Sanders, the defense is looking better each week. Despite missing several key players, they did exactly what they needed to do and allowed just 16 points. During the five-game winning streak, the Patriots defense has allowed an average of just 13.4 points per game. While it still needs some work, overall, this unit looks light years better than the unit that struggled so badly the first few weeks of the season.

Red Zone Offense Looks Better: The Patriots “officially” went 4-6 in the red zone tonight, and against Denver’s defense, on the road, that is a big improvement. They lost one opportunity on a sack of Brady inside the 10-yard line and the other on a blown call by the officials. Brady hit Rob Gronkowski on what looked like a touchdown pass, but the officials ruled it incomplete. The play was reviewed and the call was upheld. One has to wonder if Walt Coleman used the logo tablet to review the call or not. The ball never touched the ground. Coleman’s crew missed an obvious pass interference call on Chris Harris where he clearly grabbed Brandin Cooks arm on a deep pass by Brady in the end zone. Inexcusable.

Spreading the Wealth: Denver’s defense was done in by the Patriots versatility and depth on offense. Brady was brutally efficient at spreading the ball around in the passing game. Cooks had six catches for 74 yards, Gronkowski had four catches for 74 yards, Martellus Bennett had three catches for 38 yards, Danny Amendola had four catches for 36 yards and Burkhead chipped in with his three catches and a score. Dwayne Allen finally got off the schneid and got his first catch as a member of the Patriots and it ended being a touchdown. James White added a touchdown catch as well.

The running game was handled by Dion Lewis and Burkhead and they produced enough to keep the Broncos linebackers honest in the pass rush department. Overall, the Patriots kept the Broncos off-balance and reeling all game long. They dictated the pace and won the battle of the trenches.

Where Do We Go From Here: The Patriots improve to 7-2 tied with the Steelers for the top record of the AFC and game ahead of Kansas City. The win coupled with Buffalo’s loss gives New England a two-game lead in the AFC East.

The Patriots will remain in Colorado and work out at the Air Force Academy this week as they get further acclimated to the altitude when they travel to Mexico City next week to face the Raiders. The stadium in Mexico is about 2000 feet higher in altitude than Denver so it makes sense to remain, make it a shorter travel week and get more work in the thinner air.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

NFL Week 10 Odds, Predictions and Picks against the spread

John Morgan
November 12, 2017 at 7:00 am ET

NFL Week 10 has plenty of interesting story lines. On Sunday night the Patriots travel to their house of horrors, Denver’s Mile High Stadium. The Pats are 2-6 since 2005 in Colorado, and 4-18 in the Rockies since 1969. Despite that alarming trend the Patriots are 7½ point favorites as of Saturday night.

Since their week five bye the Broncos have been in a free fall with no end in sight. First there was a 13-point loss to the Giants, giving Big Blue their only win of 2017. That was followed by a shutout loss to the Chargers, then a five-turnover debacle against KC. Last week the one strong point for Denver, their defense, allowed 51 points. It was the most points allowed by the Broncos since 2010. On top of that the 28 point differential was the worst for Denver since the 2011 season of Tim Tebow.

There are plenty of other games worth watching as well. In the early time slot Minnesota is at Washington, and the Saints travel to Buffalo on a six-game winning streak. Then in the late afternoon time slot Dallas travels to Atlanta without Ezekiel Elliott. Roger Goodell wanted the NFL to have 12-month headlines, but these questionable suspensions and subsequent court cases are crushing the popularity of the sport. The week wraps up with Miami at Carolina on Monday night.

Most of the country will get Pittsburgh at Indy early on CBS. Fox has the early time slot split between the Saints-Bills in the east, and Minnesota-Washington in the west. The Pats-Broncos game is available most everywhere, though Hartford is stubbornly (and stupidly) opting to air the Giants game instead. smh…. For a full list of announcers and to see what games are being broadcast in your are, please check JP Kirby’s 506 Sports.

 

Early Games on Fox

6-2 Minnesota Vikings at 4-4 Washington Redskins
Vikings favored by 1½; over/under 41 points; money line -125, +105

Washington has had injuries throughout their entire offensive line this season. They get three starters (LG Shawn Lauvo, C Spencer Long, RG Brandon Scherff) back this week. That should significantly help matters, but LT is still a sore spot. Minnesota Pro Bowl DE Everson Griffen already has ten sacks, and will make LT TJ Clemmings look incompetent.

Pick: Vikings 23, Redskins 17
Minnesota -1½, under 41

 

4-4 Green Bay Packers at 3-5 Chicago Bears
Bears favored by 5½; over/under 37½ points; money line -250, +210

It would be no surprise whatsoever if the Pack finishes the season in last place in the NFC North. Perhaps then they can use their early draft picks to shore up that Swiss cheese offensive line. Here’s a question: will Brett Hundley be able to make the roster on a CFL or Arena league team in 2018?

Pick: Bears 20, Packers 17
Packers +5½, under 37½

 

3-5 Cincinnati Bengals at 5-3 Tennessee Titans
Titans favored by 4½; over/under 40½ points; money line -220, +180

Cincinnati has given up 25 ppg over the last three weeks, losing two of three since their bye. Two of those games were against Jacksonville and Indianapolis, neither of which are offensive juggernauts. More alarming was the Bengals regression on offense last week, with a mere eight first downs and seven points scored.

Pick: Titans 20, Bengals 17
Cincinnati +4½, under 40½

 

6-2 New Orleans Saints at 5-3 Buffalo Bills
Saints favored by 3; over/under 47½ points; money line -145, +125

The Saints are overdue for a letdown loss, but will it come now? Here is dome team playing outside up north in the last half of the season against a team coming off an embarrassing loss. I just don’t think that the Bills can keep up with the New Orleans offense though. The Saints have a balanced attack and are playing complimentary football. That is something they have lacked since winning the Super Bowl eight years ago. Logically the Saints win, but I’m taking the Bills to bounce back in a slight upset. Buffalo wins their fifth straight home game.

Pick: Bills 24, Saints 20
Buffalo +3, under 47½

 

Early Games on CBS

6-2 Pittsburgh Steelers at 3-6 Indianapolis Colts
Steelers favored by 10; over/under 45 points; money line -500, +400

Pittsburgh has a tendency to play down to the level of their opponents on the road. That doesn’t mean the Colts will pull off the upset though; they are still awful. Indy has an atrocious minus-98 point differential already. To place that in perspective that is worse than even the one-win Giants, or the winless Browns and Niners.

Pick: Steelers 27, Colts 20
Indianapolis +10, over 45

 

3-5 Los Angeles Chargers at 5-3 Jacksonville Jaguars
Jaguars favored by 4½; over/under 41 points; money line -210, +180

RB Leonard Fournette will have fresh legs after three weeks off. He faces a Charger run defense that is allowing 4.6 yards per carry (28th) and 135 yards per game (31st). The Jacksonville defense is for real, allowing an NFL-best 14.6 points per game.

Pick: Jaguars 24, Chargers 13
Jacksonville -4½, under 41

 

4-5 New York Jets at 2-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jets favored by 2½; over/under 43½ points; money line -140, +120

Tampa Bay’s defense has been a sore spot all season. The Buccaneer defense generates no pass rush, with a league-worst eight sacks on the season. That has resulted in 7.9 yards per pass attempt (28th) and 24.8 points per game (26th). Give journeyman QB Josh McCown enough time and he will avoid critical mistakes and do just enough to win.

Pick: Jets 24, Bucs 20
Gang Green -2½, over 43½

 

0-8 Cleveland Browns at 4-4 Detroit Lions
Lions favored by 11; over/under 43½ points; money line -625, +450

The Cleveland defense has actually played well this year. The Browns are allowing only 2.9 yards per rush (1st) and 4.9 yards per play (8th). The offense though ranks at or near the bottom in nearly every statistical category. Detroit may be inconsistent, but they have far more talent and should win easily.

Pick: Lions 31, Browns 13
Detroit -11, over 43½

 

Late Afternoon Games

3-5 Houston Texans at 6-2 Los Angeles Rams
Rams favored by 11½; over/under 45½ points; money line -675, +475

This would have been a really great game to watch. Unfortunately it’s Tom Savage at QB rather than DeShaun Watson, and JJ Watt and Whitney Houston are sidelined as well. The Rams put up 51 points last week and now have to be considered a genuine contender to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. QB Jared Goff’s numbers through eight games: 2,030 yards passing with 13 TD against only 4 INT. Goff also leads the NFL with 8.3 yards per pass attempt and 13.8 yards per completion.

Pick: Rams 27, Texans 13
Los Angeles -11½, under 45½

 

5-3 Dallas Cowboys at 4-4 Atlanta Falcons
Falcons favored by 3; over/under 48½ points; money line -150, +130

The Dallas offense has been clicking, and the Atlanta defense has been missing. The Cowboys will be without RB Ezekiel Elliott however. Perhaps more importantly all-pro LT Tyron Smith will also be inactive due to a groin injury. Atlanta needs to get their offense back in gear to keep their playoff hopes reasonably alive.

Pick: Falcons 28, Cowboys 27
Dallas +3, over 48½

 

1-7 New York Giants at 0-9 San Francisco 49ers
Giants favored by 2½; over/under 42 points; money line -145, +125

Week after week I keep picking Santa Clara to win a game. Week after week the Miners find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Now they host Team Turmoil, traveling three time zones. The G-men have given up on their season and their coach is Dead Man Walking. The legend of Jimmy Garoppolo in the City by the Bay commences. Only masochists would tune in to watch a game between two teams with a combined 1-16 record.

Pick: Niners 3, Giants 2
Niners +2½, under 42

 

Prime Time Games

6-2 New England Patriots at 3-5 Denver Broncos
Patriot favored by 7½; over/under 44½ points; money line -320, +260

New England fans are rightfully going to temper their expectations based on the Patriots history in Denver. The Broncos have not looked good since their week five bye. Denver has lost four straight, turning the ball over 13 times in that span. To win they will need their defense to come through against a Patriot offense that is without WR Chris Hogan (shoulder). Danny Amendola has been playing through a knee injury, so the Pats could rely more on James White in the passing game. The Broncos can’t focus on stopping both Rob Gronkowski and the Patriot running backs at the same time. Brock Osweiler and the Denver offense will make a critical gaffe or two against Matt Patricia’s defense.

Pick: Patriots 31, Broncos 17
New England -7½, over 44½

 

4-4 Miami Dolphins at 6-3 Carolina Panthers
Panthers favored by 9; over/under 38½ points; money line -450, +350

Continuity on offensive lines is a key to productivity. Miami will make two changes to their OL this week, adding LG Ted Larsen but losing RT Ja’Wuan James. That could be problematic against a Carolina defense that is allowing only 17.7 ppg.

Pick: Panthers 24, Dolphins 17
Miami +9, over 38½

 

Bye Week:
4-5 Baltimore Ravens
6-3 Kansas City Chiefs
4-5 Oakland Raiders
8-1 Philadelphia Eagles

 

For a sneak peak at next week’s games, check out NFL Week 11 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead Lines: Patriots favored by 6 vs Raiders in Mexico City.

 

New England Patriots News 11-12, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 11-12, & AFC East Notes.

The Patriots are coming off the bye tonight and traditionally under Bill Belichick, they’ve done well with the extra week to prepare but with all of the injuries they’re currently suffering from, and given that Denver has always been a tough place for them to win in, makes for a very intriguing game tonight.  

Patriots Bring Back Martellus Bennett After His Release From Green Bay:
The Patriots brought back tight end Martellus Bennett after he was released by the Green Bay Packers this week putting in a waiver claim on him. The Packers said is that he was released for “failure to report an injury designation.”  He is reportedly suffering from a torn rotator cuff and shoulder labrum which will require surgery.

But he’s going to attempt to play thru the pain as evidenced by his appearance at practice on Friday.  Bennett was a very well respected member of the team during their Super Bowl run in 2016. He was productive in the passing game, he had 55 catches for 701 yards and seven touchdowns, as well as a tremendous blocker and he got high marks for playing through a myriad of ankle, knee and shoulder injuries all year.

Bennett took to social media on Friday to explain his side of the injury situation in Green Bay and lashed out at both team doctors and the front office.:
“The Packers examined my shoulder on my visit March 10 and cleared it,” he said “They even gave me an x-ray as well. It got worse during the season, specifically against the Cowboys [on Nov. 8], so I asked to have it checked and we checked it. After a few days of contemplating to play with it or get surgery, I chose surgery. Now here we are…”

“They tried to f— over me.”. “Dr. [Patrick] McKenzie trying to cover his own ass. After trying to persuade me to play thru a major injury and me choosing to get surgery. They have access to all my medical records. My shoulder wasn’t where it is now at the beginning of the season. I f—– it up playing for the Packers.”

“Dr. McKenzie didn’t make feel safe and was pushing to play, which I thought was weird. Not that he was trying to get me play thru it but the way he was saying things. I didn’t trust him. So I got three other opinions from doctors, who all said I need to get it fixed. So I decided to do that. And they decided to waive me with some bullshit excuse. Failure disclose.”

“Every week we do a body evaluation sheet in the weight and pretty much every week I circled my shoulder. I just kept playing, but it got worse. During the bye week, I got off anti-inflammatories to clean my system and could really feel the pain. So I asked to examine it [the] first day back in. And that’s when we found out it was really f—– up.”

“They knew.” “They panicked. Thinking that I was trying to go on the IR and be on their books next year. When I mentioned that I would possibly retire. So they tried to f— me before they thought I would f— them. This was all about the money. All about the money. I get it. But don’t lie, homie. You know wtf was up.”
“I had intentions of playing all eight games, as I mentioned in the post during the bye week, but found out it was worse than I felt after getting it checked out. Now I’m like f— it. I chose my health over the ‘team.’ They chose money over me.”

Patriots Minus At Least Three Starters Tonight, Several More Questionable:
The Patriots despite coming off of the bye week are still dealing with a multitude of injuries. Chris Hogan, dealing with a shoulder injury suffered against the Chargers is out. Likewise for starting right tackle Marcus Cannon and DL Malcom Brown.

There are five more players officially listed as questionable tonight who are also dealing with injuries. Tight end Martellus Bennett, wide receiver Danny Amendola (knee), cornerback Stephon Gilmore (concussion/ankle), defensive end Cassius Marsh (shoulder) and cornerback Eric Rowe (groin).

Gilmore spoke with the media early in the week and stated that he should be ready to return to game action. Amendola will probably suit up as well as the wide receiver position is banged up with Hogan hurting and Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell on IR. Mitchell is eligible to come off of IR and has recently started running again so he’s still several weeks away.

Filling in for Hogan this week is WR Phillip Dorsett who came over in the Jacoby Brissett trade. Dorsett has played sparingly thus far in 2017 and has just three catches. He, Amendola and Brandin Cooks are the only healthy wide receivers right now.

Ricky Jean Francois, “I’m In Dunkin Donuts Heaven” :
With the injury to Malcom Brown in the interior of the Patriots defensive line, the team signed free-agent veteran Ricky Jean Francois to help with the depth of the team. It is especially thin given that Vincent Valentine is still on IR and hasn’t begun practicing yet.

Francois, 28, has been investing his money down South in a very New England franchise, Dunkin Donuts and owns 30 of them between Savannah Georgia and Hilton Head, South Carolina.

This week, ESPN’s Mike Reiss asked him about how he felt coming to New England where not only the Patriots but DDs is such a part of the fabric of the area. This brought a laugh from Francois. “Believe me, that was one thing as soon as I got off the airplane, every block I hit I saw a Dunkin’ Donuts,” he said. “I was laughing; I must be in Dunkin’ Donuts heaven here.”

Reiss asked Francois if he had seen the commercials with Rob Gronkowski, and he laughed again. “I love him, because he has business booming. I told him every time I look at that commercial, I smile now.”

Francois isn’t an interior pass rusher, he’s more in the mold of an Alan Branch, a two-gap eating run stuffer. And he should see some action this week against Denver. He’ll wear #94. So if the Patriots win tonight Ricky, will there be 94 cents coffee in Savannah on Monday?

Waddle Will Have the Tough Task of Blocking Von Miller Tonight:
With Marcus Cannon out for tonight’s game with an injury, his starting slot at right tackle will fall to LaAdrian Waddle and he knows all eyes will be on him on national television as Miller is one of the premier pass rushers in the league.

The 6’6, 315-pound Waddle started in place of Cannon earlier this season against the Houston Texans and has the confidence of the coaching staff to get the job done. He’s leapfrogged Cameron Fleming for the top swing tackle job on the team behind Cannon and Nate Solder.

The coaching staff will keep a close eye on things and if Waddle begins to have trouble with Miller, we can expect one of the running backs to stay in and block or a tight end to chip on their way out in the pattern. But this will be one of the areas to watch tonight.

Who Do You Like This Week NFL Week 8:
Last week wasn’t  a great one with some of my picks and I finished with a 7-6 mark. Season Total: 84-48.

This week’s Thursday Night Football Game I went with the Seattle over the Cardinals (1-0). Now for the rest of the slate:
Packers at Bears – Green Bay
Browns at Lions – Detroit
Steelers at Colts – Pittsburgh
Chargers at Jaguars – Jacksonville
Saints at Bills – Buffalo
Jets at Buccaneers – Tampa Bay
Vikings at Redskins – Washington
Bengals at Titans – Tennessee
Texans at Rams – Los Angeles
Cowboys at Falcons – Dallas
Giants at 49ers – New York

SNF Patriots at Broncos- New England
MNF Dolphins  at Panthers – Carolina

Bye week: Ravens, Chiefs, Raiders, Eagles

Next Thursday Night Pittsburgh over Tennessee.

And They Are Dancing in Jacksonville:
The Jacksonville Jaguars are playing good football right now and the investments made in the defense are paying tremendous dividends. The Jaguars are 5-3 and tied for first in their division. They are there primarily because of the play of their defense.

The Jaguars are third in the NFL in terms of yards allowed and first in the league in points allowed with just 117 points scored against them in eight games. Which comes out to just 14.6 points per game which is excellent.

On Sunday the Jaguars on social media released an animated GIF on Twitter showing the team dancing in the locker room after a victory. And invited fans to send in a video of their own celebratory dance moves after a victory. The responses are fun to watch.

For a franchise that has been down for a number of years, it is good to see the Jaguars turning the corner and being relevant again.

So, to see some of the video responses, type in the link: Tweet a video of you celebrating with #JagsWinDanceSweeps for a chance to win a signed football.

http://bit.ly/JagsPromo  
#SponsoredByEA

Eastbound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Playoff Quest Begins With Big Matchup Against Brees, New Orleans:

The Buffalo Bills have to pick themselves off the mat after a terrible performance against the Jets 10 days ago on Thursday Night Football. The 5-3 Bills are locked into the playoff race and can’t have any more meltdowns such as last week.

This week they welcome Drew Brees and the Saints who are the hottest team in the NFL right now with New Orleans rolling off six wins in a row. The Saints offense still goes thru the ageless Drew Brees who is throwing for about 275 yards per game, but they are much more balanced now which is keeping opponents honest.

The big changes have been on the New Orleans defense, they are young and very fast. After suffering through the growing pains of communications breakdowns thru the preseason and the first two games, the Saints have figured it out and are playing very well for the first time in many years on the defensive side of the ball.

However, the Bills are 4-0 at home and Brees has struggled somewhat in the colder weather….and it is going to be cold in Buffalo today. Look for the Bills defense to have a big, bounceback day today and win a very close contest to move to 6-3.

Copycat League? Carolina Will Use the TE in Attacking the Dolphins:

The Miami Dolphins lost last week against the Oakland Raiders and during the game, one of Derek Carr’s biggest targets was tight end Jared Cook who caught nine passes for 126 yards and seemed to be dominating the matchup with LB Kiko Alonso as well as safety Reshad Jones. This week, we’ll watch as the Carolina Panthers may try to exploit the same matchups using Ed Dickson, the big tight end who is averaging 15.9 yards per catch. Dickson started off the season slowly but has been steadily getting better in the Carolina offense replacing All-Pro Eric Olsen who could come off IR in the coming weeks.

And it won’t just be the Panthers watching today’s contests; the NFL is a copycat league, all of Miami’s upcoming opponents have productive tight ends and they’ll see if last week was an anomaly or a trend.

The Patriots with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett, have a pair of games upcoming, ditto for Buffalo’s Charles Clay. Kansas City with Travis Kelce, and Tampa Bay with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate are all on the schedule. So the Dolphins defense, which has been better this season has some work ahead of it.

Jets Kearse Joins Chorus of NFL Players Who Want TNF Gone:

The New York Jets’ wide receiver Jermaine Kearse watched on Thursday night as his friend and former teammate suffered a season-ending injury, tearing his Achilles tendon against the Cardinals. Sherman didn’t practice all week leading up to the game for his Achilles already being injured.

Ah man, that sucks,” Kearse said of Sherman’s injury to the NY Daily News. “It’s definitely tough because I’ve seen that dude play through a lot of stuff, and I know it means a lot of him, especially him being out there with his teammates. I know it’s hurting him. But he’s going to bounce back. He has that grit and that perseverance.”

“Guys are putting their bodies on the line, day in and day out, even through practice. You see Deshaun Watson, who has a significant injury during practice, and not even in the game. So I think we definitely have to have a discussion on it.”

“You’re asking a lot of guys on one day to give it their all, and then have them come back and play just a couple days after, that’s asking a lot,” Kearse said. “This game is 100-percent injury rate. That’s the truth. That’s the facts. And…guys might be dealing with stuff from previous games that they’re still trying to recover from, but they’re still going out there on Sundays and playing and giving it their all and then you give them a short week like that, it’s tough.”

“Some guys are fighting their recovery until the night of the game,” Kearse added.

Could Sherman’s injury have occurred on Sunday if the teams had three more days of preparation? Of course, but in a physical game where the players are always getting banged up, asking them to turn around and do it again on three days rest doesn’t sit with the organization that constantly touts “player safety.”

The league saw a chance to increase profits by sticking these Thursday games into the season so now they rule on Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays. The revenue pours in and the owners reap the benefits. The players, like Sherman, have to pay the bill.

This is a situation that the Players Association has to dig their heels in about when the next CBA comes about. They can’t take no for an answer. TNF must go.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Broncos Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
November 10, 2017 at 8:44 am ET

The New England Patriots begin the second half of the regular season when they travel to take on the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football.  

This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC on Sunday, November 12 at 8:30 p.m. ET and can be seen on NBC Boston – 10. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work from the sidelines. The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (6-2) are coming off the bye week. In their last game, they defeated the Los Angeles Chargers 21-13. They are banged up and missing several key players.

The Broncos (3-5) return home after an ugly 51-23 shellacking at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles. They’ll be looking to get back on track at the hands of their hated rivals, who they always seem to beat in Denver.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Broncos have met since the beginnings of the old AFL in 1960 and the games have always gone in streaks. However, in Denver, the Patriots always seem to play poorly and have had a rough time getting many victories there. Denver holds an all-time 30-22 advantage in their history and a commanding 23-10 edge at home. Although the Patriots took last year’s meeting 16-3 in Denver.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Broncos Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Denver

The Patriots running game has been emerging the past few weeks as they have been tinkering with different looks and formations. Dion Lewis has been the workhorse and figures to see the bulk of the carries again on Sunday. But they will use Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead liberally as well as they try to remain balanced.

The Broncos were allowing only about 72 yards per game on the ground after being gashed last season. However last week against Philadelphia, they were run on to the tune of 197 yards and three touchdowns. Don’t expect a repeat performance of that in Denver. Domata Peko has been an excellent acquisition for them in the running game.

Look for the Patriots to mix things up this week to try to keep the pass rush off balance. Lewis and Burkhead will probably the key runners to watch this week with Gillislee in for any short-yardage/goal line situations. It won’t be a big statistical day for the backs but if they can run enough to keep them honest it will be enough.

Patriots WRs vs Broncos Secondary – Razor’s Edge Denver

The Patriots passing game is averaging 300 yards per game, 2nd best in the league this season, despite Tom Brady being under a lot of pressure every week. Now they’re facing one of the better pass rushing teams in the league with Von Miller and the Denver secondary, the “No-Fly-Zone” which will be a big test for the passing game.

With no Julian Edelman and no Chris Hogan, Tom Brady will have Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola and Phillip Dorsett on the outside. The running backs, James White, Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis will have to pick up some slack in the passing game this week. Denver has allowed just 192 yards per game via the air.

The key this week for New England is the tight ends. Rob Gronkowski will be the target that Brady will try to match up with. Denver’s defense, if it has a weakness is defending the tight ends. Of course, they know the Patriots are short-handed at WR and will try to matchup accordingly. This week we may see more of the rookie tight end, Jacob Hollister, attacking the seams in two tight end sets. The outside linebackers are very good pass rushers but aren’t as comfortable in coverage. Marcus Cannon may not play which means LaAdrian Waddle will be going against Von Miller. Another matchup to watch.

Next up the Broncos offense:

Broncos RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Broncos running game has been up and down this season. When they won three of their first four, the new-found commitment to running the ball was paying dividends. But during their four-game losing streak, the running game has faltered and put too much pressure on their quarterbacks, who aren’t getting it done. The Broncos have a trio of good backs in C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles, and Devontae Booker.

The Patriots have not been good against the run despite seeming to turn the corner in recent games. Against the Chargers, other than one play they set the edge and stuffed the inside very well. But that one play was one where everything broke down and resulted in an 87-yard touchdown run. Such has been the defense for much of this year.

This is the key to the game here. If Denver can’t run effectively enough to make play action passing a factor, and has to put the ball in Brock Osweiler’s hands, then it is a losing proposition for them. Alan Branch and Ricky Jean Francois, filling in for the injured Malcom Brown will have to step up. And setting the edge is extremely important this week.

Broncos WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

Denver’s passing game has been mired in mediocrity because of quarterback play. They still have Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas at wide receiver, former Patriot A.J. Derby at tight end as well as Charles, Booker and Anderson out of the backfield. Broncos QBs have been sacked 28 times and intercepted 12 times.

The Patriots pass defense was historically bad thru the first six games of the season. But they’ve begun to turn things around and the past two games against Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers the secondary has been much improved. The team should get Stephon Gilmore back this week, helping the depth and hopefully Eric Rowe soon.

The key this week from a New England perspective is putting the ball in Osweiler’s hands. If he’s forced to throw in third and long all game long, that is a winning formula for New England. Denver’s pass protection has been shoddy, but the Patriots pass rush hasn’t exactly been superb this season. We’ll see if Matt Patricia dials up some different looks in an attempt to generate some turnovers.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski has had a very solid season. His kickoffs have been spot on to pin opponents deep.  The coverage units have been outstanding and getting better. The return game has been getting a boost by Danny Amendola and Dion Lewis in recent games. Ryan Allen’s average hasn’t been great, but he’s consistently putting punts inside the 20-yard line.

The Broncos Special Teams has been pretty awful. Brandon McManus has missed five field goals out of his first 15 attempts before going 3-3 last week. Their coverage units haven’t been great and this is another area that the Patriots could exploit this week.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one should be a typical New England game in Denver where they always seem to struggle offensively to put points on the board. In the past five years, the Patriots average scoring 36 points in three home games against Denver and just 18.5 points a game in four away games.

Turnovers are going to be key here, the Patriots have to win the turnover battle. Back in 2015 they were controlling the game when a muffed punt opened the door for Denver to roar back and win the game in overtime. The Broncos offense has struggled to score in their four-game losing streak. Don’t give them any short fields for easy points.

Look for Brady to target his running backs a lot in this one to try to neutralize the Denver pass rush. James White and Rex Burkhead could figure prominently in this one. Look for Osweiler to make a mistake or two, as he’s been prone to do. This one won’t win any style points this week and could easily go the other way, but the Pats are on to Mexico with a 7-2 record.  Patriots 20-13

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Denver’s Offensive Woes Continue As the Team Struggles to 3-5 Start

Steve Balestrieri
November 8, 2017 at 12:00 pm ET

The Broncos have lost four straight and are officially on the hot seat and can watch their hopes of making the postseason blow up with another loss on Sunday night to the Patriots. Denver is limping into this one at 3-5 and the reason they’re struggling has to do with the offense.

The defense has been holding up their end of the bargain despite last week’s anomaly in Philadelphia where everything that could go wrong did. But Denver’s offense has scored just 52 points during the current four-game losing streak. And 14 of those points came in garbage time when the game was already lost in Philly. That won’t win many games and the team is struggling to find the answers to right the ship.

Here are a few of our first impressions of the Broncos before Sunday night’s matchup.

Carousel Under Center: Quarterback Trevor Siemian has been benched and the team has turned to Brock Osweiler. Osweiler started in place of an injured and aging Peyton Manning in 2015 and played well. The highlight of his career could easily be the Sunday night game where he beat the Patriots in a thrilling overtime win. However, soon after Denver’s Super Bowl win, Osweiler bristled at GM John Elway’s waffling on whether to sign the young QB to an extension or to sign Manning to a one year deal.

Osweiler bolted to Houston for a big money contract, who could blame him? But he quickly flamed out with the Texans and with them drafting DeShaun Watson, they shipped Osweiler to the Cleveland Browns. And he couldn’t make the team there, despite the woes of the QB position in Cleveland. With the injury to QB Paxton Lynch, he’s was brought back full circle to the Broncos.

He didn’t play well in Philadelphia last week, but neither did any of the other players. Now the team is hoping he can catch lightning in a bottle twice against the Patriots and hold the season together (with their defense) until they know what they have in Lynch, who Elway spent a first-round draft pick on in 2016. He’s getting healthier and if Osweiler doesn’t want to be replaced again in Denver, Sunday night is a big one.

Running Game Needs to be the Focus on Sunday: In Denver’s first few games of the 2017 season, they ran the ball down the throat of their opposition and jumped out to a 3-1 start and people were already pencilling them in for a long playoff run, thanks in no small part to their dominant defense.

A big part of their quick start was the running game. Running back C.J. Anderson was averaging 82.5 yards per game, (nearly 100 in their three wins). But during the four-game losing streak, Anderson’s production has plummeted. He’s gotten only 152 yards the past four weeks with 78 of them coming against the Giants.

But don’t dismiss the Denver running game, or in case you need a refresher for your memory, think back to that snowy game in 2015. Anderson ran for 113 of Denver’s 179 yards and that running game opened up a big game for Osweiler who passed for 272 yards.

Denver as a team are averaging 4.2 yards per rush, which is exactly what Anderson is averaging. Jamaal Charles is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and Devontae Booker is tops with a 4.6 yard per carry average. Defensively for the Patriots here is where the game will be won or lost.

The Patriots aren’t doing a great job of stopping the run and with Malcolm Brown and Dont’a Hightower out, it will make the running game a harder option to stop. When Denver has run well, they’ve won. When they haven’t, their quarterback play has suffered and they’ve lost. It isn’t hard to see where the Patriots defensive focus will be this week.

Turnovers Have Plagued the Team During Recent Skid: Like everyone else with an offense that is struggling, the Broncos can’t afford turnovers and that is exactly what they’ve been doing during the recent losing streak. Denver right now is woeful -12 in the turnover department. One of the reasons that Siemian was benched was turnovers. In the seven games that he started, he turned the ball over 15 times with 10 interceptions and five fumbles.

On the flip side of that, the Denver defense will be looking to feed off of the normally raucous crowd of their home field and force a couple of turnovers of their own. They are feeling a bit salty after allowing 51 points in Philly and the Patriots are always Public Enemy #1 for them.

Again, going back to that 2015 game, what turned the tide? A turnover. Chris Harper muffed a punt in the second half and the Patriots went from having a double-digit lead to quickly being down and having to force an overtime. Turnovers will be key to both teams this week.

Don’t Expect Defensive Meltdown At Home: Pundits are entirely too quick to throw dirt on this Broncos team, especially the defense. Even many Broncos fans on social media have been quick to predict gloom and doom this week as the two teams will meet on primetime Sunday night.

Besides giving up the 51 points last week, particularly galling for members of the defense was HOW they gave them up. Philadelphia had over 400 yards of offense but 197 of them were on the ground. Entering the game last week, Denver had allowed just 510 yards rushing or 72.8 yards per game.

Von Miller spoke about that game and how the team was approaching the rest of the season this week to ESPN.  “We are where we are right now,” Miller said. “Right now, [Sunday] … we’re not a good football team.

“We still have time. We still have time to be great,” he continued. “We’re not a great football team right now, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a great football team within us. But [Sunday], we’re not a good football team, offensively, defensively, special teams, whatever. We’re just not good right now.”

Don’t expect to see Dion Lewis running wild this week. Look for the Broncos to be much better and back to their normal selves on Sunday night.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.