AFC Championship Game Free Pick
Even though public bettors continue to hammer the Patriots at the betting window, are the Broncos the value play in today's AFC Championship Game?
Our NFL Public Betting page shows that 76% of wagers are currently on New England to cover the spread today versus Denver. These numbers haven't fluctuated much throughout the week - public bettors continue to line up to take the Patriots at the betting window.
But is the value in the home underdog?
According to oddsmakers from online sports book RealBet.eu, the Broncos are a 3.5-point home underdog while the total sits at 44.5. The home team is a perfect 6-0 against the spread in the last six meetings between these two teams and, along those same lines, the Patriots are just 1-5 against the number in their last six trips to Denver.
The hype throughout the week has been centered on Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, who will meet for the 17th time this afternoon. In fact, it might be the final time football fans have the opportunity to watch these two future Hall of Famers go head-to-head.
But the keys to victory (or at least a cover from a betting standpoint) for the Broncos have less to do with Manning and more to do with their defense and running game. In fact, that's been the case all season.
As many opponents are well aware of, it's virtually impossible to stop Brady for four full quarters. But the key to slowing him down is pressure (just ask the Giants). If Denver can bring the heat without sending extra rushers, then it has a chance to slow down New England's offense. Thankfully the Broncos employ DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, who have a knack for winning their one-on-one matchups and making the quarterback's life hell.
The Chiefs didn't stand a chance last week with Justin Houston banged up. But Ware, Miller and rookie Shane Ray are a different animal. The Broncos have owned the NFL's top defense all season and have the defenders in the secondary to match up with the Patriots' receivers. Hopefully Chris Harris (shoulder) is healthier than he was last week versus the Steelers but even if he's not, the Broncos still have solid depth in third corner Bradley Roby (the same player that caused a fumble to set up Denver's winning touchdown last Sunday).
On the other side, the Broncos have to run the ball or else they don't stand much of a chance. Manning is as smart as ever but his arm strength has deteriorated and he can't be in third-and-long all day. If C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman create short down-and-distances, that's where Manning can pick a defense apart. Hopefully Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders don't have issues with drops again.
Getting back to a betting standpoint, with so much money on New England sports books will need Denver today. Despite the number of tickets on the Patriots to cover, sports books continue to move the line back and forth between 3 and 3.5.
In what should be a field goal game, take the team getting 3.5 that has home field advantage and a great defense. There's plenty of value in the Broncos.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME FREE PICK: DENVER BRONCOS +3.5