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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, November 23, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Maybe the networks are overplaying the personal rivalry thing a bit much. Sunday Night’s Denver/New England game featuring Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on NBC doesn’t feature two Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks at their peak. Manning lacks zip on many of his passes as he continues to rebuild from neck surgery. Brady’s healthy, but his receiving weapons aren’t what they used to be.

And, fans have recent memories of Denver losing at Indianapolis and New England losing at Carolina!

Still, Sunday Night’s battle is a huge game in the AFC, and could launch a legend back to another (final?) Super Bowl appearance several weeks down the road. Denver and Manning are current betting favorites to represent the AFC in the big game. New England and Brady still have a chance to earn the #2 seed and the bracket advantages that come with it.

 

Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)

Denver: 9-1 (#29 schedule in USA Today)

N. England: 7-3 (#26 schedule in USA Today)

Either Denver or Kansas City (both 9-1) are going to get that #1 seed barring twin collapses. New England is fighting with Cincinnati and Indianapolis for the second bye…and will need to have a better record than the Bengals because of a heads-up loss. What most strikes us about this category is the soft schedules these teams have played. Part of that is because the whole AFC seems pretty soft…making it very hard to score well in a schedule measurement. Still, what would Denver be against a league average schedule given what we saw when they visited Indianapolis and Dallas? New England’s been having trouble getting distance from opponents. Are they just a Wildcard team playing a bunch of non-contenders? Note that it’s possible a New England victory would set up a playoff rematch on this field in the AFC Championship game, with Denver as a visiting Wildcard.

 

Yards-Per Play

Denver: 6.4 on offense, 5.4 on defense

N. England: 5.2 on offense, 5.1 on defense

This is where you really have to be concerned about New England. A differential of +0.1 would translate to a negative against an average schedule, and an even bigger negative against the kind of teams they’ll run into in the playoffs. Denver has an impressive differential that still works toward victory against a tougher slate. Most importantly to us, Denver’s defense has been playing better in recent weeks. They learned last year that you just can’t hope to outscore people in January.

 

Turnover Differential

Denver: -2

N. England: +7

This is where New England gets its wins. And, you might argue it should be +8 if not for a questionable officiating decision on the final play in Carolina this past Monday. They still get the best of it in the risk/reward area…which works great until they run into teams who don’t turn the ball over! A problem for Denver in that their defense doesn’t take the ball away enough to scare people. The numbers today paint a picture of two teams who can exploit weakness when they see it…but not two teams who can control their own destiny within a smaller sampling of elite teams. Will either be able to control their destiny Sunday Night?

 

Market Performance

Denver: 6-3-1 ATS

N. England: 5-5 ATS

A credit to the Broncos that they’ve covered at a 67% rate even though they were projected as best in the AFC before the season started. Oddsmakers and sharps knew they’d be very good…but the betting lines have underestimated them anyway. Granted, that’s because they drum weak teams…and they’ve played a lot of weak teams! New England’s right at 50/50…but only missed 60/40 by a point in Carolina.

 

Current Line: Denver by 2.5, total 54


Home field advantage is worth three points in the NFL, so the market is telling you that Denver is 5.5 points better on a neutral field. Well, maybe 4.5 and then a bonus point is in the mix because New England had one less day to get ready after playing on MNF. Does that strike you as accurate? Tom Brady and New England as a home underdog?

JIM HURLEY knows the value of TV home underdogs. But, he also knows that the market thinks Denver should be the favorite for a reason. He’s been working very closely with all elements of NETWORK’S exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach to make sure YOU get the right side. The SCOUTS and SOURCES have reported in. The COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS have reported in. The WISE GUY CONNECTIONS in Las Vegas and offshore have reported in. If this game qualifies for big play status, it will be part of a spectacular Sunday slate!

You can purchase the full Sunday package right here at the website with your credit card. If you’d like to talk to a live person about full season options, call our handicapping office Sunday before the early kickoffs at 1-888-777-4155.

Back with you Monday to discuss San Francisco/Washington in what could be the next big quarterback rivalry (if Colin Kaepernick can regain last year’s form!) Then we’ll dive right into a Thanksgiving Week that’s absolutely loaded with big football matchups. THE FEAST IS ABOUT TO BEGIN…grab a fork and link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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