Broncos vs. Patriots Odds
After last week’s Patriots-Broncos game was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, New England is now slated to host Denver as a 7.5-point home favorite on Sunday.
Given the original postponement and now the relative uncertainty that this game will even be played, is there any betting value if it does kick off as scheduled?
Let’s take a closer look.
Drew Lock has been sidelined since Week 2 with a shoulder injury and will make his first start in three weeks against the Patriots.
In two games this season, Lock has completed 60.5% of his passes with a 53.6 mark in ESPN’s Total QBR. Now he’ll be facing a New England defense without the services of one his coveted security blankets in Courtland Sutton (torn ACL) and starting right tackle Elijah Wilkinson (fractured shinbone), who have both been lost for the season.
Outside of a 37-28 victory over the Jets, the Broncos’ offense has been abysmal. They’re 28th in points per game (20.5), 29th in yards per game (306.8), 28th in yards per play (4.8), 28th in red-zone efficiency (46.0%) and dead-last in early-down success rate. To exemplify how brutal this Broncos offense has been, they’re ranked 31st in Football Outsiders’ overall DVOA but 30th in offensive DVOA and 10th in defensive DVOA.
Melvin Gordon being ruled out could be a blessing in disguise for the Broncos: With Phillip Lindsay returning from from his turf toe injury, they’ll be forced into giving more work to the better running back.
With the absence of Sutton, rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy has been a bright spot for this offense, leading the team in targets (28) and yards (234). But WR K.J. Hamler and tight end Noah Fant are also out for Sunday’s matchup, so Lock will be without more weapons.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, the injury bug has also bit the defensive side on the field as well. Von Miller was lost before the season started, defensive tackle Jurrell Casey tore his biceps not long after that, then the dominos continued to fall. Cornerback A.J. Bouye, linebacker Mark Barron as well as defensive linemen DeMarcus Walker, Mike Purcell and Dre’Mont Jones have all went down since. T
he Broncos have been playing with a makeshift unit, and yet Vic Fangio’s defense is still the strength of this team as they’re 14th in points per game (24.5), ninth in pressure rate (24.2%) and 10th in yards per play (5.2). They’ve done a particularly solid job at limiting explosive plays — i.e. plays of 20 or more yards — as they’re sixth in explosive run rate and ninth in explosive pass rate.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick proved his brilliance and ability to game plan is second-to-none in New England’s 26-10 Week 4 loss to Kansas City. Unfortunately, not even the greatest coach of all-time could overcome the disastrous play of Brian Hoyer, who went 15-of-24 for 130 yards with an interception and a fumble.
Fortunately New England has its Superman back as Cam Newton was removed from the COVID-19 reserve list and is scheduled to play on Sunday.
Through the first three weeks of the season, Newton provided a dual-threat element that made the Patriots offense difficult to defend, leading their rushing attack with 149 yards and four touchdowns on a league-leading 35 attempts for quarterbacks. Without Newton, they saw their rushing success rate plummet as they posted just a 49% rate against the Chiefs, which ranked 18th among all 30 teams that played in Week 4. Their offense with Hoyer under center was a stark contrast to the first three weeks with Newton as the Patriots previously led the NFL in rushing, averaging 178 yards per game on the ground with a 57% success rate.
This is a prime bounce back spot for the Patriots against a banged-up Broncos defense that’s missing its starting corners.
Although Newton is a significant upgrade over Hoyer, the Patriots are down to their third-string center after James Ferentz was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list after a positive test. This is has been par for the course as the Patriots have shuffled through four different offensive line combinations this season. Despite this, the unit has held up well as they rank fifth in adjusted line yards and have allowed just seven sacks this season, tied for seventh among all NFL teams.
Reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore has returned from the COVID-19 reserve list and will play on Sunday. The Patriots defense has dropped off after heavy offseason turnover, however they’re still just 12th in points allowed per game (23) and second in pressure rate (30.9%). Defensive end Chase Winovich has been a bright spot, leading the team in sacks (2.5) and quarterback hits (6). The Broncos are 24th in adjusted sack rate, so we should see Winovich’s sack total climb this week.
Unlike this past Tuesday night’s Titans-Bills matchup, the market hasn’t created an inefficiency by assuming that one team will perform worse based on the long break. The Patriots appear to be priced as they should be as the Broncos also didn’t play last week.
My model makes this game Patriots -10.76, but I find it difficult to lay the big number in this spot. With such a low total at 45, having 8 points in your pocket is much more valuable than if the total were higher. The Patriots play slow and methodical, which creates more opportunities for the underdog to cover in this spot.
At the same time, I have no interest in playing a banged-up Broncos team on the road against Belichick.
For me, the value lies in the total as I project this to be a lower-scoring game.
This Broncos offense with a rusty Lock shouldn’t scare a Patriots defense that held the high-flying Chiefs offense to just 26 points, with seven of those coming from a Jared Stidham pick-six.
We should expect New England to return to form and run the ball. Given the Patriots’ changes on the offensive line and the Broncos’ ability to limit explosive plays, I like this game to stay under the total of 45. I would play it down to 44 as it’s a key number for betting NFL totals.
PICK: Under 45 (down to 44)