Opening Lines: Week 15

The Patriots are six-point favorites in Week 15 as they travel to Denver to take on the Broncos.


For once, the pre-game show won’t be focused entirely on Tom Brady as Tebowmania is set to descend on Patriot Nation this week. Don’t be surprised if the media completely forgets that there are 15 other games to be played. The Broncos have won seven of eight and have escaped from some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable behind a quarterback who almost didn’t beat out Brady Quinn for the job of holding Kyle Orton’s jock in camp this year. While I’m among the folks who just smile and shake their head every time the Broncos pull out another Houdini act, I’m not buying the idea that this team is ready for prime time. Denver has feasted mainly on some of the league’s true bottom-feeders (Miami, KC, Minnesota, Oakland and a Bears team missing its starting QB and RB). Tebow may have a 7-1 record as a starter, but he also has a +2 point differential while playing against competition that might as well be plucked from Penn State’s early-season schedule. Tim Tebow is going to mature as a passer, he’s going to continue to improve, and he’s going to win more than his fair share of games for the Broncos. Hell, they may even win a playoff game this year (an act that could possibly cause a global Twitterpocalypse). But it’s foolhardy to suggest that he can hang with an elite team like the Patriots at this stage of his career. He has a high ceiling as an offensive weapon, but he hasn’t reached that ceiling yet. Not even close.


For all of Tebow’s strengths as a tough runner and a good decision-maker, his flaws as a passer (slow release, inaccuracy) play into the strengths of New England’s defense. New England’s defensive philosophy this year has been to keep everything in front of them and attack the football, and that extra split second on Tebow’s release can be the difference between a receiver hauling in an errant pass or the defender breaking it up. The Pats have done a decent job of stopping the run this year, and I’d expect New England to move a safety into the box on early downs to dare Denver to beat them down the field. Denver’s pair of big, physical receivers are not polished route-runners, so it’s easy to envision Tebow struggling to find running lanes while having to fit the ball into a lot of tight spaces. That is not Denver’s recipe for success.


It’s no secret that the Patriots have struggled against teams that feature a strong pass rush. The Broncos have recorded the fourth-most sacks in the league with 37 on the year, and they could create more than a few problems for the Patriots offensive line. However, it’s also important to note that the Broncos biggest pressure comes off the edge with DE Elvis Dumervil and OLB Von Miller. The Pats have struggled most against defenses that can generate a big push up the middle, and that has not been an area of strength for Denver. The Pats typically use their backs and tight ends to chip edge rushers, and Brady’s uncanny pocket presence allows him to help out his blockers by stepping up in the pocket to buy additional time. Denver has allowed 22 passing TDs with just 9 INTs this year, and it’s likely that Brady will have another efficient afternoon to put pressure on Denver’s offense.


I’m going to take a knee, bow my head to reflect on my record of correctly predicting the outcome of Broncos and Pats games this year, and then pick the Patriots to cover this spread with relative ease.


Other Lines I Like


Packers (-13.5) @ Chiefs


This should have been the second spread of the year to go above the 20-point barrier. Green Bay’s offense is breaking records; the Chiefs are having trouble finding the end zone at all. KC’s point output for the past six games: 3, 10, 3, 9, 10, 10. To put that in perspective, the Packers scored more points in 60 minutes of football last week than the Chiefs have scored since Halloween. The bookmakers dropped the ball on this one, and the public is going to make them pay. If you’re going to bet this one, do it early. Don’t walk to your neighborhood gaming establishment. The line might be -17 when you get there.


Lions (-1) @ Raiders


I shudder to think about the number of penalties that will be committed in this game. If these two teams go into overtime, the postgame show can double as the halftime show for the Sunday night game. This may look more like a fight in the prison yard than a football game. The Lions have underperformed in recent weeks due to dumb penalties and inexcusable mental lapses. They’re now playing the team that invented dumb penalties and inexcusable mental lapses.


Jets (+3) @ Eagles


This game is destined to be a fluky Jets win. On talent alone, this line is spot-on. But after watching Philly find new and creative ways to lose winnable games all season, it’s hard to get too excited about betting on them, particularly when they play a team that is well-versed in notching undeserved victories over the past 2-3 years. Philly has struggled against the run, and their speedy WRs don’t create as much of a mismatch for New York’s CBs.


Falcons (-11) @ Jaguars


I wouldn’t put too much stock in last week’s offensive explosion from the Jags. It was the first time they’ve scored more than 20 this season, and they were aided by seven Tampa turnovers and a compliant Bucs defense. The Jaguars have not travelled well this season (just 1-5 on the road), and the Falcons have played well at home. Jacksonville’s secondary has been a worse train wreck than a Kardashian marriage. Look for Atlanta to score early and often.


2011 Record ATS 35-35-3
2010 Record ATS 25-17-1