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NFL Playoffs: our Racing Post expert looks ahead to New England at Denver

The Racing Post experts know a thing or two about a thing or two. They've let us have a peek at their enormous knowledge. Phil Agius looks ahead to what should be a couple of fascinating Conference deciders - first up, the Patriots at the Broncos

by Paddy Power | January 19, 2014

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP – Sunday 8pm, Sky Sports 1
BETTING: MOBILE | DESKTOP

THE NFL has two Championship games worthy of the name today and they don’t come much better than a showdown between future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

Denver’s Manning continues to dominate the regular-season passing record books but has lost more play-off games than he has won with ten wins and 11 post-season defeats compared to Brady’s 18-7 record in knockout action.

The match is about 90 other players as well and in what looks a close contest, taking the big handicap start for the Patriots has to make sense. New England are going into this clash having scored 118 points in their last three games, with their four defeats in 18 outings this year having come by seven, three, four and four points.

Only Cincinnati, in Week Five, have beaten the Patriots by more than today’s handicap and the visitors look to have found their identity with a strong running game in recent weeks.

Even more important than the quarterback comparison is the showdown between the coaches and no one would argue against the Patriots having the edge there with five-time AFC Championship winner Bill Belichick going up against John Fox, whose one Super Bowl appearance saw his Carolina side lose to Belichick and the Patriots in 2004.

The Pats’ running back trio of LeGarrette Blount (355 yards and six touchdowns in the last two games), Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley prevent opponents from putting all their focus on attacking Brady who, despite the loss of his two star tight ends from last season, is happy enough finding Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.

Edelman had nine catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns in the teams’ first meeting and although ten of their last 12 touchdowns have come on the ground, he looks a spot of first-TD value at 12-1 against a Broncos defence missing cornerback Chris Harris.

Manning has tight end Julius Thomas available as a dangerous option alongside Demaryius Thomas and former Patriot Wes Welker. Thomas missed the teams’ first meeting in New England which Denver led 24-0 at half-time before the Pats roared back to win in overtime.

No result should come as a surprise in this super showdown but at the prices the Patriots look the better-value option.

Recommendations

  • New England +5.5 – 3pts @ 10-11
  • New England win – 1pt @ 21-10
  • J Edelman first TD scorer – 1pt @ 12-1

BETTING: MOBILE | DESKTOP

AFC LOWDOWN

Venue: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
Surface: Artificially enhanced grass
Weather: Clear and dry with light winds, 15C
Handicaps: New England +5.5; Denver -5.5
Points line: 55.5-56.5

Team news
New England
Wide receivers Kenbrell Thompkins (concussion) and Aaron Dobson (foot) are both listed as questionable. Dobson is considered more likely to be available. Quarterback Tom Brady (illness) missed practice on Wednesday but is no longer on the injury report. Punter Ryan Allen (shoulder) could feature. Linebacker Steve Beauharnais (illness) is their only absentee. Wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin), cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (knee), linebacker LB Dont’a Hightower (ankle), guard Logan Mankins (ankle) and running back Shane Vereen (groin) should be fit.

Denver
Cornerback Chris Harris (knee) and safety Rahim Moore (leg) are out. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (calf) was added to the injury report on Friday but is expected to play. Safety Mike Adams (thigh), tight end Joel Dreessen (knee) and safety Duke Ihenacho (knee) should be fit.

Head-to-head
Week 12Denver 31 New England 34 (OT)

Formguide
NEW ENGLAND (most recent first)
(h) 43-22 Indianapolis
(h) 34-20 Buffalo
(a) 41-7 Baltimore
(a) 20-24 Miami
(h) 27-26 Cleveland
(a) 34-31 Houston

DENVER (most recent first)
(h) 24-17 San Diego
(a) 34-14 Oakland
(a) 37-13 Houston
(h) 20-27 San Diego
(h) 51-28 Tennessee
(a) 35-28 Kansas

KEY STATS

  • Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has won ten of his 14 career meetings with Denver QB Peyton Manning’s teams
  • Denver have won 14 of their last 16 home games, including play-offs

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