Manning, Brady to meet in AFC championship game

Leave a comment

DENVER — The last time Tom Brady and the New England Patriots came to Denver, Peyton Manning watched the game on television from inside the locker room.

Not next Sunday, though. The Broncos quarterback will take in his customary spot in the huddle.

Manning meets Brady for a 17th time – with a trip to Super Bowl 50 at stake.

Perhaps it’s only fitting these two quarterbacks meet in the AFC title game, since Manning didn’t get to suit up against New England on Nov. 29 because of a foot injury. That game was a thriller, too, with Brock Osweiler leading the Broncos to a 30-24 overtime victory.

Manning’s foot is healed – at least as healed as it’s going to get for now – and he guided the Broncos to a 23-16 win over Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Brady is still vintage Brady, passing, bootlegging and QB sneaking the Super Bowl champion Patriots past the Chiefs on Saturday and into the AFC title game for a fifth straight season.

Brady’s Patriots opened as a 3 1/2-point favorite over Manning’s Broncos.

Manning didn’t want to start reflecting on the rivalry with Brady right away. “We’ll deal with that on Wednesday,” he said.

Manning is now 12-13 in the playoffs over his career. This one, though, possibly means a little more, given his comeback from a foot ailment that sidelined him for six weeks.

“It’s been a unique season, a lot of new things have happened this season, kind of like tonight,” said Manning, who replaced Osweiler in the season finale, leading the Broncos to a win over San Diego to secure the No. 1 seed. “We stayed patient tonight. We never really got frustrated and that served us well tonight and it served me well this season.”

Denver surrendered 339 yards passing to Roethlisberger, who entered the game with a sore shoulder. The challenge doesn’t get any easier.

Brady has long gotten the better of Manning, who is 5-11 lifetime against his counterpart, but 2-2 in the playoffs, including a win two years ago in this stadium.

“I’m honored to be a part of it and I’m looking forward to playing next week in the AFC championship,” Manning said.

But this is hardly the same Manning anymore. He doesn’t rely on his arm nearly as much as his ability to decipher schemes. He also leans heavily on the running game.

And Denver’s top-ranked defense, too.

“Our defense is guiding us. Let’s make that clear. They played great all season,” Manning said. “They were dominant today against a high-powered offense.”

Manning and Brady were paired on this stage following the 2013 season, when the Broncos held on for a 26-16 to advance to the Super Bowl.

It was a game that may be best remembered for a hit by Wes Welker on Aqib Talib, which knocked the then-Patriots cornerback out of the game and opened up things for Manning, who threw for 400 yards that afternoon.

Talib is with the Broncos now and a big reason for the success of the defense.

“We’ve had a lot of different players contribute to our success when we’ve been successful,” Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. “I told them it would take them all today. It sure did. It will continue to take all of us as we move forward.”

Brady has one of his security blankets back in Julian Edelman, who returned from a broken foot on Saturday to help the Patriots beat Kansas City. Of course, Brady also has tight end Rob Gronkowski.

“They’re one of the best teams in the AFC,” Broncos linebacker Von Miller said. “Let’s go out and play and see who wants the Super Bowl.

 

Broncos double-digit favorites on Sunday night vs. winless, depleted Giants

Leave a comment

The Denver Broncos head into Sunday night with the largest spread they have had at home after a bye week in at least 25 years. The Broncos are 11.5-point favorites against the winless New York Giants with a 38.5-point total for the Week 6 Sunday Night Football matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Denver is 6-1 straight-up and against the spread in post-bye week games dating back to 2010. There’s a similar long-running trend of Denver being 7-2 SU and ATS in home games following a bye week since 2003. However, this is the first time since 1996 that Denver has been a double-digit favorite in that scenario.

The Giants, which are 0-5 SU and 2-3 ATS, had three wide receivers, including Odell Beckham Jr., sustain season-ending injuries last week. That has left QB Eli Manning with WR Roger Lewis (15 career catches) and WR Tavarres King as his main outside targets. Slot WR Sterling Shephard (sprained ankle) could be inactive.

While team performances tend to gravitate toward the mean with time, the Giants will need to show something new – with replacement-level personnel – in order to move the ball against a Denver pass defense which allows only 6.2 yards per pass, fifth-best in the NFL.

The Broncos’ top-ranked defense, led by OLB Von Miller, is also first in run defense and has every starter healthy. While NFC teams are a combined 1-10 SU on the road against Denver since 2012, the Giants are a solid 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games against the AFC.

Denver, 3-1 SU and 2-1-1 ATS, has been quietly efficient on offense. The Broncos, with QB Trevor Siemian, are in the middle of the NFL pack in yards per pass, but they are facing a Giants secondary that is minus CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (suspension) and has also had inconsistent play from CB Eli Apple.

Denver, 7-2 ATS over its last nine home games in October, has been good at opening holes for the tandem of C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles, who are each capable of making things happen in the open field if the tackling gets sloppy. New York also won’t have DT Olivier Vernon drawing double teams up front and keeping blockers off MLB Damon Harrison.

Unless the Broncos stop themselves, they should be able to grind out a workmanlike win.

The total has gone over in three of the Giants’ last four games against the Broncos, according to the OddsShark NFL Database. The total has gone over in six of the Broncos’ last seven games as a favorite of 11.0 points or more.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Watch Indianapolis Colts vs. Seattle Seahawks live on NBC

2 Comments

The Seattle Seahawks host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football as both teams look to get back to .500.

Russell Wilson will be the focal point of the Seahawks offense after throwing for a career-high 373 yards and four touchdowns in a losing effort vs. the Titans in Week 3. Wilson’s ability to avoid the rush and use his legs will be on full display as Seattle’s offensive line continues to struggle.

On the defensive side, the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” will look to get back on track at home in a raucous environment against Colts QB Jacoby Brissett who is filling in for an injured Andrew Luck.

If the Colts have any chance to pull off the upset on the road, Brissett will have to use his legs and connect on some deep throws to T.Y. Hilton.

Football Night in America

Start time: 7:00 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app

Colts vs. Seahawks

Start time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV channel: NBC

Live stream: NBCSports.com, NBC Sports app