Advantage - Denver
January 27, 2014
By Kevin Rogers
Following a devastating double-overtime loss to the Ravens in last season's divisional playoffs, the Broncos rebounded by winning the AFC Championship this season. Denver has put together a 28-7 record the last two seasons with Peyton Manning at the helm, as the Broncos seek their first Super Bowl title since 1998.
When many fans point to Denver's success, the first thing to highlight is the home-field advantage playing at Sports Authority Field. The Broncos won nine of 10 games at home this season, while limiting the Chargers and Patriots to a combined 33 points in two playoff victories. However, Denver put together a 6-2 record on the road this season, with the two losses coming against playoff squads New England and Indianapolis. Granted, the Broncos squandered a 24-0 lead in the loss to the Patriots, while scoring 33 points in Manning's return to the Hoosier State in a 39-33 defeat to the Colts.
The Broncos' offense put up at least 30 points in 13 games this season, including 41 points against the Giants at Met Life Stadium back in Week 2, the site of the Super Bowl. Denver won all four games against the NFC, while breaking the 40-point barrier in all four victories against the Eagles, Giants, Redskins, and Cowboys.
When analyzing Manning's playoff history, the star quarterback lost his first three postseason games with the Colts from 1999-2002, but won nine of his next 16 in Indianapolis, including all four in the 2006 playoffs. In Denver, Manning has won two of three playoff contests, although he has not played on the road yet with the Broncos in the postseason.
NFL Expert and VegasInsider.com handicapper Joe Nelson has some interesting statistics that backs taking the Broncos, "The Denver offense posted record setting numbers this season, scoring over 36 points per game on the season. Those figures include two playoff games that featured lower numbers but featured the Broncos in complete control. If you take away the three games against San Diego, the one team that seemed to be able to slow Denver down, the Broncos averaged 39 points per game."
On the opposite side of the ball, Nelson breaks down how well the Broncos have performed of late, "Denver's defense does not have Seattle's overall statistical profile, but down the stretch and in the playoffs, Denver was arguably more impressive on defense. In the two playoff games, the Broncos allowed just three points combined in the first three quarters of the two games as almost all of the scoring for San Diego and New England came with the game all but in hand for the Broncos. The teams that did give the Denver defense problems were mostly strong down field passing teams, the Cowboys and Giants early in the season, the Colts, and a Patriots squad with Rob Gronkowski was some of the most productive teams against the Broncos."
VegasInsider.com handicapper Antony Dinero says the reliance of Manning is key for the Broncos' success, "Denver's fortunes ride on Manning's ability to make the correct adjustments at the line of scrimmage, something he does as well as anyone in NFL history. The challenge is doing it against a Seahawks defense that flies around and feasts on turnovers, so he'll have to be conservative, riding the running game and picking his spots. If he can avoid turnovers and give the Broncos a chance to steal this late, you have to like his chances of avoiding a Colin Kaepernick-type mistake in the Super Bowl's late stages, setting himself up to win a second title."
Nelson mentions John Fox's defense has slowed opponents down on the ground, "Denver actually has featured a superior run defense to Seattle and none of the last four foes for the Broncos have topped 87 yards rushing with the two playoff opponents combining for only 129 yards rushing. If Seattle is unable to run the ball effectively, they will have little chance of keeping up with the Broncos."
Favorites of 3 ½ points or less in Super Bowl history have put together a strong 8-3 SU/ATS record, as the last team in this situation was Green Bay three years ago holding off Pittsburgh, 31-25 as three-point 'chalk.' Three of the last four Super Bowls played outdoors have gone to the AFC, including Pittsburgh (SB XLIII), Indianapolis (XLI), and New England (XXIX).
You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.
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