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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 30, 2016 at 12:06 PM




Hey, want to know one really stark difference between this year's Denver Broncos' offense and the one that made it to Super Bowl 48 just two years ago?
This here-and-now Broncos bunch scored 30-or-more points only two times all year - a 31-24 triumph at Kansas City back in Week 2 and a 30-24 overtime win against visiting New England in a Week 12 prime-time game ... and that's it!

Now, trace back to the 2013 season and that Broncos team registered 30-plus points in 13 different games and - get this - Denver actually scored 45-or-more points on five different occasions - yes, wow is right!

So, the Broncos may be back at another "bite of the apple" here with the franchise's record-tying eighth Super Bowl appearance but this is a whole different animal with the defense the real star and QB Peyton Manning - believe it or not - more of a "bit player" here.
Okay, so we'll get to today's Jim Sez feature - When the Denver Broncos Have the Ball - in just a moment but first this quickie/key reminder:

Jim Hurley - America's #1 Handicapper -- will have the Sides & Totals Winners of Super Bowl 50 when you check with us on game-day morning plus go ahead and continue to pile up the profits all this week with loads of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - go ahead and pound the books today!


SUPER BOWL 50 - Sunday, Feb. 7 At Levi's Stadium - Santa Clara (CA)

CAROLINA (17-1) VS. DENVER (14-4) - 6:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Hey, the Las Vegas price tag has hit Carolina (- 6) in many locales as we greet y'all here - remember the official opening-line price was Panthers minus 4 points and so there could be some serious "middle players" out there but those "middles" that win are, in truth, few and far between:

WHEN THE DENVER BRONCOS HAVE THE FOOTBALL - Okay, so this wasn't your vintage Peyton Manning Year considering the 9 TDs and 17 INTs in regular-season action along with the slew of missed games when backup Brock Osweiler stepped in and did a more-than-commendable job and so it comes as no great surprise that the 2015 Broncos ranked 14th in the NFL in passing offense (averaged 248.1 ypg) and just 17th in rushing offense (averaged 107.4 ypg) ... and let us remind you that Denver has scored just three touchdowns in this post-season with home wins against Pittsburgh and New England.

Maybe the best part about Denver's 20-18 upset win against 3-point fav New England in the AFC Championship Game last Sunday was that Manning (see 398 yards passing and 2 TDs this post-season) had a hot hand at the start with his touchdown flings to TE Owen Daniels coming in the game's first 17-or-so minutes of game action and the 39-year-old slinger also grabbed high grades in the first half of that tilt with his ability to "read" the Patriots' defense. But let's call it the way we see it and that's Manning missed - and a couple of times missed badly - with red-zone throws that could have produced more points and here against the favored Panthers we'll say that Manning simply cannot miss the "gimme" throws ... or else.

No doubt Daniels (four total receptions this post-season) must be a middle-of-the-field factor here in SB 50 but Denver's not gonna be able to win its third Vince Lombardi Trophy without WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders (a combined 16 playoff receptions worth 199 yards but no TDs) making some significant "chunk play" gains. For argument sake, we say Thomas/Sanders must catch a fistful of 20-plus yard gainers or else Denver's gonna need help getting a "short field" thanks to its defense/special teams.

Must admit that the rushing numbers have not been great this post-season with RBs C.J Anderson and Ronnie Hillman going for 198 total yards on 58 carries (just 3.4 yards a pop) but both of these guys are capable of making a flip-the-field run that can alter momentum and we'll be especially eye-balling Anderson come the second half when he seems to get stronger and more inclined to "break" one.

If this Denver offensive line - one that's not nearly as good as Carolina's underrated O-line - can keep Manning's uniform "clean" and Thomas/Sanders can hold onto some big third-down passes, than the Broncos will have a shot considering the Denver "D" keeps Carolina QB Cam Newton under wraps.
In other words, a lot has to go right for Denver to get 24-or-more points here ... could the script include four or five FGs by dependable PK Brandon McManus? Hmmm.

PREDICTION - Expect the Broncos to attempt to counter Carolina's tag-team linebacking duo of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis Sr. (yes, the latter will play with a broken arm) with some misdirection plays (that means some traps/draws with Anderson and Hillman) but just as we preached "balance" with the Carolina offense this Denver attack must look for a near 50/50 run/pass split but the Broncos can't have more than three or four negative plays - that's INTs, sacks, rushing losses. Put it this way ... if the Broncos lose the turnover war they could lose by two TDs or more.

THE POINTSPREAD STAT BOX - The Broncos actually are just 4-5-2 ATS (against the spread) since that Week 8 prime-time home upset against the 2.5-point favored Green Bay Packers, so it's not as if the AFC champs zoom into Super Bowl 50 with a whole lot of pointspread momentum.

DID YOU KNOW? - The Broncos are now 11-3 SU (straight-up) in one-score game this year but two years ago when Denver made it to the Super Bowl that team was just 4-3 SU in games decided by eight points-or-less. Just sayin'!



Count us among the folks who are really happy to see key out-of-conference games being played on this final weekend in January as the Big 12 vs. SEC Challenge stirs up lots of hoop excitement ... here's a couple of key matchups:

VANDERBILT (12-8) at TEXAS (13-7) - 12 p.m. ET, espn2
Here's a couple of teams that could use "signature wins" as we draw nearer to March - yes, the Texas Longhorns did best Iowa State a couple of weeks back but first-year head coach Shaka Smart needs to see more consistency from his club and the Big 12 guys might well need a 20-plus point game here from top scorer Isaiah Taylor (15.8 ppg) to get mission accomplished.

#14 IOWA STATE (16-4) at #5 TEXAS A&M (17-3) - 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
No secret that the A&M Aggies are gonna drop in the polls following Wednesday's 74-71 loss at 3.5-point underdog Arkansas and so it's bounce-back time or else for the "gig 'em" crowd after that spiffy 10-game SU winning streak ended. If Texas A&M's top 25 defense (allowing 64.3 ppg) can't get after Iowa State's Georges Niang (19.3 ppg) and Monte Morris (15.5 ppg) here, than the Cyclones will add this to their road list of "W's" that currently includes Kansas State and TCU.

#1 OKLAHOMA (17-2) at LSU (13-7) - 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
This showdown in Baton Rouge is getting lots of attention because two of the country's biggest candidates for Player of the Year are squaring off with Oklahoma G Buddy Hield (25.9 ppg) battling LSU freshman Ben Simmons (19.8 ppg and 12.7 rebounds-per-game) but dig a bit deeper and you see that the Sooners' two losses came on the road - the triple-OT classic loss at Kansas and the recent five-point loss at Iowa State - and so Lon Kruger's club is in a something-to-prove mood here while LSU needs to show it can conquer a "big name" and keep in mind Oklahoma's "sporting cast" for Hield is a heckuva lot better/more mature than Simmons' supporting cast.

#20 KENTUCKY (16-4) at #4 KANSAS (16-4) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Maybe Kansas head coach Bill Self is coming around: Earlier in the week on a conference call there was Self claiming he didn't like league play getting "disrupted" by this Big 12 vs. SEC Challenge but word has it he sees advantages ... and a home win against a ranked Kentucky team would be a nice little feather in the Jayhawks' caps and now veteran front-court star Perry Ellis and mates must keep 'Cat G Jamal Murray under control. P.S., John Calipari's club has won seven of its last nine games since the day-after-Christmas and Murray (17.5 ppg and 53 made trifectas) could make life miserable here for a Kansas team that sometimes forgets how to defend.



Let's just say this whole Cleveland Cavaliers' coaching story has developed a real life of its own ... maybe in the general scheme of things it's no big deal that head coach David Blatt was fired and replaced by everyone's buddy Tyronn Lue as many in-the-know folks believed that was gonna happen following last year's NBA Finals.

However, just the fact that the media has needled megastar LeBron James into a major "guilt job" considering he most certainly gave the blessing for Lue to replace Blatt - hey, "The King" never/ever liked Blatt from the very minute he met the man! - has become the real story here.

Why so sensitive, LeBron?

After all, you wouldn't be the first superstar player in NBA lore to have a head coach fired - the names Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird all come to mind from an NBA bygone age - but this stuff has really gotten to James and you do have to wonder if it will spur 'em on to greater heights as this season rolls on or will it sap some of his enthusiasm and energy for the game?

Don't look now but entering Friday night's action, the Cavaliers (32-12) were just two full games ahead of the surging Toronto Raptors (31-15) in the race for the numero uno seed in the NBA's Eastern Conference and wouldn't that be something if the Blatt firing played on James' mind all year, the Cavs dipped a bit and - just like that - we'd have a Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Toronto, not Cleveland.

Just food for thought on a story that won't go away - and please cease-and-desist from telling your side of the story anymore, LeBron, 'cause nobody believes you!

NOTE: Catch up with our Monday edition of Jim Sez as we creep closer to Super Bowl 50!

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