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Week 10 Sunday Night Football Preview: New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos Betting Advice

By Peter Brooks in Sports
| November 8, 2017 12:00 am PDT

Quarterback play defines the modern era of professional football, and the two teams that we’re going to see for the Week 10 edition of Sunday Night Football rest on completely opposite ends of the spectrum: The New England Patriots have a surplus of excellent QBs, meanwhile, the Denver Broncos have a serious deficit. And this difference defines the matchup in this game.

The backup quarterbacks for both the Patriots and the Broncos have been in the news this past week. 

For the New England Patriots, the big news is that the team has traded longtime backup Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers, a major surprise for the fans.

Garoppolo, age 26, was drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft and spent the first three-and-a-half years of his career as the backup to future-Hall of Famer Tom Brady. During this stretch, he managed to accumulate two Super Bowl rings despite receiving limited playtime, appearing only in a relief role when a game was so well in hand that the Pats could sit Brady.

When Tom Brady served his 4-game Deflategate suspension in the beginning of last season, Jimmy Garoppolo was expected to start all four games but ended up only starting two due to injury.

The young backup looked so good during this brief tryout that rumors flew fast and thick during the offseason that Patriots head coach/de facto general manager Bill Belichick would trade Garoppolo during the offseason, perhaps to the Cleveland Browns or the Chicago Bears, both of whom were in desperate need of a QB.

Ultimately, Jimmy Garoppolo was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in the days leading up to the Halloween trade deadline for a 2nd-round draft choice in 2018.

The 49ers had started the year with a different former Patriot QB, Brian Hoyer, who began his career in New England as an undrafted player in 2009. After spending three seasons as the backup in New England, Hoyer played for five different teams before landing the starting job in San Francisco under offensive savant Kyle Shanahan, whom Hoyer had worked with for a year in Cleveland.

The 49ers have had a lot of moving parts this season as they begin their rebuilding process, and one of the players who got released happened to be starting quarterback Brian Hoyer.

Now, after a circuitous journey throughout the league lasting five years and encompassing six organizations, Brian Hoyer is now back in New England as the backup to Tom Brady once again. And with Garoppolo now a member of the San Francisco 49ers, the two teams have in essence done a one-for-one quarterback swap.

Now the Patriots’ starting quarterback is 40-years old, and their backup quarterback is 32-years old.

Naturally, with Brady fresh off his fifth Super Bowl victory and fourth Super Bowl MVP award, the proof’s in the pudding that the oldest starting quarterback in the NFL is probably the best starting quarterback in the NFL. And for the Patriots to feel comfortable trading Garoppolo makes it all the more clear that they truly do expect to see the G.O.A.T. play for at least three or four more years.

Meanwhile, while the Patriots reap the rewards of having likely the best quarterback situation in the National Football League, the Denver Broncos suffer the consequences of having one of the worst.

Tom Brady was born on August 3rd, 1977. Though it’s hard to believe, one of his greatest AFC rivals over the years – Peyton Manning – was born only 18 months before. These two quarterbacks account for the two most recent Super Bowls, with Manning winning with Denver two seasons ago, and Brady winning a thriller against the Falcons last year in the first Super Bowl overtime game in history.

But after Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl with the Broncos two seasons ago, he retired, and Denver has not yet been able to find a replacement for him.

Transitioning from one great quarterback to another great quarterback is very difficult to pull off. The Patriots were able to do it with Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady in 2000, and had an outside chance to pull it off again with Jimmy Garoppolo (assuming the young man would have become great), but the trade for Garoppolo indicates just how difficult it is to get the right player and to get him at the right time.

Since Manning retired, Trevor Siemian has been the Broncos’ starter. Siemian was benched last week.

In a season where the Broncos have struggled mightily on offense, first-year head coach Vance Joseph decided that a change was needed, so Siemian rode the bench. But unfortunately, due to the fact that last year’s first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch has been sidelined all season with a shoulder injury, the Broncos were forced to trot out the running joke of the league: third-stringer Brock Osweiler.

Everyone knows Osweiler’s story: after looking competent backing up Peyton Manning two years ago, Osweiler got a $72 million contract from the Texans, failed miserably, and ended up back in Denver.

You know your quarterback situation is in bad shape when you’re forced to start Brock Osweiler even though your starter from all of last season and half of this season is still healthy. And yet, this is exactly the situation that the Broncos find themselves in, and the way that they’ll meet the New England Patriots for this week’s Sunday Night Football matchup.

  • Who: New England Patriots (6–2) vs. Denver Broncos (3–5)
  • Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Denver, Colorado
  • When: Sunday, November 12, 2017. 8:30 PM (EST) on NBC

And we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know in order to make informed gambling decisions for the following bets in this game:

  • Moneyline bets
  • Bets against the spread
  • The total score over/under bet
  • Any prop bets or futures that could hold value

Today’s NFL prizes quarterback play above all else. The two teams we’ll see on Sunday Night Football couldn’t be more opposite: The Patriots had so many good quarterbacks they simply couldn’t keep them all, and so were forced to trade one away; the Broncos can’t find a good quarterback to save their life. In prime-time, we’ll see just what kind of difference having a great quarterback makes for a team.

New England Patriots vs. Broncos Betting

  • Patriots -320
  • Broncos +260

In picking games straight-up for moneyline odds, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the two teams match up holistically, in order to assign a mental advantage to one team or the other.

In our experience, when a team is able to keep its mental focus for the entire 60-minute contest, they will generally end up winning the game. The reason for this is that when a team stays mentally tough, they keep themselves from making the kind of mental mistakes that ultimately cost games.

On the other hand, when a team loses focus, they make mistakes like errant throws, dropped balls, blown coverages, missed protection assignments, and a whole host of others. These can often be big momentum plays for the other team, often leading to turnovers and points the other way. And when the momentum goes the other way, the mistakes only increase, and the game gets out of control.

The first place we generally look to assign a mental advantage is which team is playing at home.

The Denver Broncos are typically known for having a strong home field advantage at Mile High. After all, it’s called Mile High for a reason: Denver is high up in the mountains, and the altitude thins the air to such a degree that quarterbacks have to make real and tangible adjustments to their throws in order to remain accurate. And let’s not forget the fans, who also make Sports Authority Field plenty loud.

The Broncos have dominated the Patriots at home for the last 30 years, going 15–4 since 1984, and 7–3 during the course of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era.

In addition, the Broncos have been on the road for three consecutive games. They’ve looked pretty awful during this stretch, but three consecutive road games is tough – particularly during a season when all three of their wins have come in front of the home fans.

However, it should be remembered that Denver’s most recent home game featured a blowout 10–23 loss to none other than the New York Giants, who were winless at the time and had zero receivers.

This game against the Giants kicked off a four-game losing streak that sent the Broncos from 3–1 to 3–5. And none of these have been good losses – Denver has lost their last four games by an average of 14 points. They’re so bad right now that they have a chance to be a 7+ point home underdog for only the fourth time in the last 37 years.

In addition, we need to once again point out the fact that the Broncos are starting Brock Osweiler.

Last season, the Texans played the Patriots twice with Brock Osweiler as their starting quarterback. In Week 3, against the Jacoby Brissett-led Pats, the Texans lost 0–27. Then, in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Pats ended Osweiler’s career in Houston with a decisive 34–16 victory. In these two games, Osweiler combined for 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions, and a passer rating of 54.1.

In this way, given the point of the season that the Broncos are at and who’s starting at quarterback, we don’t believe that home-field advantage will matter much at all for Denver.

Meanwhile, let’s not forget that the Patriots have been excellent on the road, historically speaking. In the last 30 road games in which the Patriots have been favored by 7 points or more, New England has won an incredible 28 times. And in this game, they’re also coming off their bye, and they’ve covered in six of their last eight road games when coming off the bye.

In summary, even given the history of the Pats playing in Denver, we don’t believe that the Broncos get any special advantage from the fact that they’re at home.

The much bigger story in this game, in terms of mental advantage, is the fact that the Broncos are slumping hard, and they don’t seem to have the leadership to pull themselves out of it.

Denver has a first-year head coach, and a quarterback who can’t even call an audible at the line of scrimmage, much less confidently run an offense. The leadership for the team has to come from the defense, and yet this same defense gave up 51 points to the Eagles last week – not exactly a confidence-boosting performance.

It’s possible that the Denver defense rises to the occasion in this game, and turns things around.

After all, defending your home turf certainly carries a heavy weight. But even if Denver’s defense comes out like gangbusters, we still have to fall back on the fact that Brock Osweiler is the guy running the show on the other side of the field. This is just too much of a confidence back-breaker for the Broncos to be able to execute the kind of clean, mentally-tough, error-free game it would take to beat the Pats.

Ultimately, we like Bill Belichick to outcoach first-year head coach Vance Joseph, and we like Tom Brady to out-quarterback Brock Osweiler (that one’s a pretty call). The mental advantage provided by these two leaders trickles down to the rest of the team, the Broncos make way too many mistakes, and lose.

Pick: Patriots to win

  • Patriots -7.5 (-120)
  • Broncos +7.5 (EVEN)

Now that we’ve established our pick for the New England Patriots to notch a rare Denver road win due primarily to the fact that the Broncos are starting Brock Osweiler, it’s now time for us to turn our attention to the question of whether we believe the Pats will win by more than seven-and-a-half points.

In picking games against the spread, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s offense matches up against the losing team’s defense.

In our experience, when a team is both able to stay mentally tough enough to win the game and also matches up well on offense against the losing team’s defense, they usually score enough points to both win straight-up and win against the spread. Alternatively, when the losing team’s defense is able to generate stops, they are often able to keep the game close enough to pull off a backdoor cover.

In this game, the matchup to watch for the ATS bet is between the Pats’ offense and the Broncos’ D.

The overall narrative for these two teams over the last few years has been as follows: The Pats have one of the best offenses in the league, and the Broncos have one of the best defenses. But this season, things seem to have changed.

So far this season, the New England Patriots are ranked 7th in the league in scoring offense, putting up 27.0 points per game. However, the Broncos are ranked all the way down at 24th in the league, averaging 24.8 points allowed per contest. No doubt last week’s 51-point shellacking at the hands of the Eagles has a lot to do with this, but it’s still very uncharacteristic for a Denver defense.

The Patriots’ offense has been excellent as usual this season, and most of their production has come in the passing game, which matches up well for Denver.

New England ranks #1 in the league so far in passing yards (with 302.1 per game), but the Broncos are ranked #4 in passing yards allowed on defense (with 192.4 allowed per game). The Pats’ immense number of passing yards (2417 total, or 302.1 per game) is so great that even though they’re ranked dead middle of the league in rushing yards (109.0 per game) they still lead the league in total yards.

Meanwhile, the Broncos also have a very stout run D, ranked 5th in the league in yards and allowing only 88.4 yards per game to opposing rushers, and giving up these yards at a rate of only 3.4 yards allowed per carry, which ranks 2nd-best in the league.

In this way, we see that somehow, Denver has given up a lot more points than it has given up yards.

The biggest reason for this is the fact that the Broncos have had so many turnovers on offense. With 7 fumbles lost (2nd-most in the league) and 12 interceptions (5th most in the league), turnovers have given their opponents the ball on a short field too often:

Denver’s defense has held opposing offenses to the fewest yards and the least amount of time per drive in the entire league, but ranks #32 in average start position.

Basically, even though the Broncos’ D has done an incredible job of getting off the field and holding opponents to few yards, their opponents are getting the ball on a short field so often due to the turnovers on offense that even if the defense quickly generates a stop, the opposing team is probably already in field goal range, and thus scores points without having to generate yards.

In addition, every strip-sack-fumble TD and pick-6 counts against the Broncos’ scoring defense totals.

So clearly, looking at the season-level statistics for the Denver Broncos’ defense, it’s clear that the team is still playing at that same top-5 level – they just haven’t been playing complementary football. And with players like Von Miller and likely the best cornerback trio in the league, and really playmakers at every position group, it’s no surprise that Denver’s defense should still be performing at a high level.

On the other side of the ball, though, the Patriots’ offense has also been performing at a high level, despite having undergone some heavy losses this season.

On paper this offseason, the Patriots were thought by many to have an even better offense than the one that scored the 2nd-most points in the league last season (behind only the Atlanta Falcons, who they so memorably outscored in the Super Bowl), with the offseason acquisition of Saints’ speedster Brandin Cooks believed to have put them over the edge into the realm of an unstoppable force.

Unfortunately, however, the Patriots received a bigger blow than they expected when Tom Brady’s long-time friend and go-to target Julian Edelman tore his ACL. The trust and chemistry that Brady and Edelman share is not something that can be replaced, even if you are able to make up for his production statistically with other acquisitions, and it shows up on the field.

Not only is Brady’s go-to clutch situation target Julian Edelman out for the season, but the run game is much different with the loss of LeGarrette Blount in free agency.

Even though New England has four quality backs that it has rotated throughout the season, both due to injury concerns and due to situational football, the dependability and bruising profile of Blount last season have been hard to replace, and it has hurt the Patriots at certain points this season.

Ultimately, though, the proof’s in the pudding for the Patriots offense: they’ve won four in a row.

New England’s offense hasn’t skipped a beat this season, and even with the challenges mentioned above they’ve still been in the top five in the league in all the statistical categories that matter. The ability of the Pats’ offense to control the ball and to string together long, draining drives is one of the primary reasons why we believe that they’ll score enough points in this one to win by more than 7.5. And the potential for Brock Osweiler to give them the ball back is what pushes us over the edge.

Pick: Patriots to win by more than 7.5

FootballTotal Score
  • Over 46 (-110)
  • Under 46 (-110)

Now that we’ve established our pick for the New England Patriots to go into Mile High and win because of the fact that this matchup features Tom Brady vs. Brock Osweiler, and that we believe the Pats will win by more than 7.5 points because of how well their offense has been rolling, it’s now time for us to turn our attention to the question of whether this game will be generally high- or low-scoring.

When picking games for the total score over/under bet, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s defense matches up against the losing team’s offense.

In our experience, when a team is both able to score enough points to win against the spread and able to generate stops on defense, they are generally able to control the flow and timing of the game to such a degree that the total score will go under. On the other hand, if the losing team’s defense gets hot and scores points, the game can turn into a shootout that pushes the total score over.

In this game, the matchup to watch for the total score over/under bet is the Pats’ D vs. Denver’s O.

As we have repeated throughout, the Broncos are starting Brock Osweiler in this game, and nothing about that makes us feel confident that Denver will be able to score points in this game. Despite having Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos have struggled mightily on offense and have the 7th-most offensive turnovers in the league.

The most unfortunate thing for the Broncos’ offense in this game is that the Patriots are primarily vulnerable in their passing defense, which is what they don’t have.

In the first month of the season, the story for the Patriots’ defense was not good. They had the worst scoring defense in the league, and they seemed to have so many holes that there seemed to be no way for them to turn things around. And then on top of this, they kept losing playmakers, like Dont’a Hightower.

But if we’ve learned anything about Bill Belichick over the years, it’s that he does more work in a week’s worth of practice than some teams will do in a whole season’s worth.

The Pats have been steadily improving, making subtle modifications to their scheme and pulling off key performances. And while it’s true that they have gone against some less potent quarterbacks in these last four wins compared to the first quarter of the season, they’ve nonetheless shown marked improvement: from the 32nd-ranked in Week 5 all the way up to the 17th-ranked scoring defense.

Meanwhile, as we keep on repeating, the Broncos are going to be facing them with Brock Osweiler.

We understand better than most that football is a team sport, and the sum of our analysis thus far indicates just how much we understand how interrelated the various features of the game are.

Nonetheless, in this case, it truly is that simple: Brock Osweiler destroys your offense’s chance to score points. He’s not confident or intelligent enough to change plays at the line of scrimmage, so he can’t avoid a defense’s coverage. He can’t make throws accurately enough to convert in tight windows and every game he makes bone-headed decisions that immediately and irrevocably impact the game.

Don’t overthink this: the Broncos have looked terrible, and Brock Osweiler can’t score points. Take the under in this one.

Pick: Broncos 10, New England Patriots 28

FootballProp Bets

Now that we’ve established our overall prediction for the game – that the New England Patriots win this game because of the leadership advantage provided by their coach and quarterback, that the Denver defense doesn’t get enough help from their offense to generate stops, and that the Pats’ D does enough to limit the Broncos’ scoring – let’s see if we can’t profit off of this view of the game with some props.

Specifically, we believe that the following wagers will hold value in this game:

  • Brock Osweiler to go over his posted total for interceptions. This one should be pretty self-explanatory: his name is Brock Osweiler. The word on the street is that this was only meant to be a two-game tryout for Osweiler until Paxton Lynch is healthy, so this is our last chance to bet.
  • The New England Patriots to score the longest touchdown of the game. With speedster Brandin Cooks liable to blow the top off of any defense and the other team featuring Brock Osweiler, there’s a good chance that if a long touchdown is scored in this one it will be the Pats.
  • Tom Brady to have more completions than Brock Osweiler. This one is also self-explanatory, but it also bears mentioning that the play style for the Patriots means many more pass attempts and the total number of plays and time of possession further supports Tom Brady’s completions.

In addition to the bets above that we’ll be able to watch unfold live on Sunday Night Football, we would also direct your attention to the following future bets:

  • The New England Patriots to win the AFC East. During the offseason, you couldn’t find any good odds for this bet, as the Pats win the division pretty much every year. Early this season they were down in the standings, so if you can still find good odds for them to win it snatch them up.
  • The Denver Broncos to miss the playoffs. With the Chiefs suddenly looking vulnerable and the Raiders struggling mightily this entire season, the AFC West is nowhere near the dominant division that we saw last season. But remember: The Broncos don’t have a quarterback.
  • The New England Patriots’ Super Bowl, AFC Championship odds. Despite being the offseason favorite, the Pats have been eclipsed by the Eagles, with the main concern being their injuries on defense. But notice: 32nd in the league at Week 5, they’re now 17th in the league at Week 10.

Veteran gamblers don’t just watch the games. When you tune in Sunday Night, keep your eyes peeled for any clues that might tip you off for the wagers listed above, and thank us later.

Summary: Best Bets

Success in today’s NFL rises and falls around the success of your quarterbacks, and the backups for these two teams have been in the news: The Pats had such an embarrassment of riches at the QB position they were forced to trade away Jimmy Garoppolo, meanwhile the Broncos have had such terrible play since the retirement of Peyton Manning that they benched Trevor Siemian for…[cringe]…Brock Osweiler.

In this game, the quarterbacks make all the difference. The mental advantage (and thus the win) goes to the Pats for the confidence that Brady instills in the team. And with the Broncos’ stout D getting no help from their offense, we see the Patriots scoring plenty of points. Combine this together with an improving Pats defense that should profit off of Osweiler’s numerous mistakes, and the Pats dominate.

In order to profit off of this view of the game, here are our best bets:

  • Patriots -320 moneyline
  • Patriots -7.5 against the spread (-120)
  • The total score to go under 46 (-110)
  • Brock Osweiler to go over his posted total for interceptions
  • The New England Patriots to score the longest touchdown of the game
  • Tom Brady to have more completions than Brock Osweiler

Traditionally, the logic of the league has always been that defense wins championships. But the winds of change are blowing in the NFL, and having a great quarterback might be the key nowadays. In this Week 10 matchup on Sunday Night Football, we’ll get a front row seat to see just how important it is to have a great QB: It’s Brady vs. Osweiler, and naturally, we’re taking Brady.



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