Last Updated: 2017-11-07
The Denver Broncos are really stuck between a Brock and a hard place. With Paxton Lynch still not healed enough to play quarterback, it looks like the Broncos will roll with Brock Osweiler again this week on Sunday Night Football against the New England Patriots. There are no questions about who will start for the Patriots and that Hall of Famer will be coming off of a bye week. Things could get ugly in the Mile High City, where the Pats are favored by 7.5 per BetOnline Sportsbook.
The Patriots hit the break at 6-2 straight up and 4-4 against the number. It hasn’t been pretty for the majority of the season, but New England has covered three of its last four games, with each of the last four games going under the total. Things are really bleak in Denver. The Broncos have dropped four straight SU and ATS. The Broncos are poised to miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since the 2009-10 seasons. Overall, Denver is 3-5 straight up and 2-5-1 ATS, depending on the closing number that you are grading against for Week 1.
The offense was never the problem. When the Patriots got off to a bit of a rough start, everybody knew why. It wasn’t Tom Brady and the New England offense. Once again, the Patriots are in the midst of averaging six yards per play. Only Kansas City has turned it over fewer times than the Pats. New England is still having some trouble running the football effectively, with just 3.9 yards per carry, but offensive balance is overrated when TB12 is the quarterback. The Patriots rank fifth in completion percentage, first in yards, fifth in yards per catch, and third in adjusted net yards per pass attempt. The bye week did come at a good time for the Patriots, who have moved the football effectively, but have been held to 24 points or less in four straight weeks. Brady has completed exactly two-thirds of his passes with a 16/2 TD/INT ratio. With Chris Hogan hurt and Julien Edelman out since the start of the year with a torn ACL, Brandin Cooks has been a fine addition with 33 grabs for a team-leading total of 563 yards. Rob Gronkowski remains reliable with 34 grabs and 509 yards. The Patriots continue to use passes to Dion Lewis, James White, and Rex Burkhead as extensions of the run, as that trio has 65 catches on the season.
While New England’s defense has done better in the points department, the Patriots are still giving up too many yards. The Patriots are last in the league in yards per play allowed by a full half-yard. The Colts have allowed 6.1 yards per play and the Patriots have allowed 6.6 yards per play. New England’s run defense is the only one that has allowed more than five yards per carry this season. With only nine takeaways, the defense hasn’t made things any easier, but despite all the yardage, opponents have only scored on 34.5 percent of their possessions, which ranks right in the middle of the pack. Only Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Houston have allowed more yards per catch than New England. Fortunately, this is a good week to ease back into things against the “Brockos”.
Two hundred twenty-six yards. That’s what the Broncos managed on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles had a great gameplan and were able to get pressure with four against a quarterback that can’t move and an offensive line that has some holes. Brock Osweiler will get another crack this week, for whatever reason. He is 21-of-42 for 226 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions on the season thus far. The Broncos have rushed for 4.2 yards per carry this season, but the fact that the Broncos have so much trouble moving it through the air has made it hard to score points. All the turnovers haven’t helped either. Only the hapless and pathetic Cleveland Browns have turned it over more than the Broncos this season. Twelve of those 19 turnovers are interceptions. This week, Denver should be able to keep the ball on the ground and move it with some measure of success, but the Patriots have also had extra time to fix their defensive woes.
Speaking of defensive woes, Denver’s back finally broke on that side of the ball last game. The Broncos gave up 51 points to the Eagles. Denver’s yards per play allowed went from 4.5 to 4.7 in the span of one game. As good as the base defense has played, the Broncos aren’t forcing enough turnovers to set the offense up for more success. The path of least resistance doesn’t exist for the offense and they just make things harder for the defense. The Broncos are -12 in turnover margin through eight games and that is going to make it hard on every team to have success. Denver’s defense has held the opposition to 3.4 yards per carry and a 59.8 percent completion percentage, but the lack of big plays to change the momentum has been an Achilles heel. That probably won’t change this week with a guy like Tom Brady that takes care of the football so well.
Free NFL Pick: New England Patriots -7.5
As much as the New England defense has struggled, the Broncos offense is just bad and probably won’t be able to take advantage. Denver’s offense has managed just 4.9 yards per play on the year and all of those turnovers have been a backbreaker. Denver’s defense should rebound from last week’s performance, but there’s no telling what number they need to hold the Patriots to in order to cover the spread. There are better bets on the board, but you can wait this one out and see if you get a 7 or tease New England down to -1.5 and the total up to 52 and play back on the under if you are desperate for some Sunday Night action.