In a matchup that seems nothing short of destiny at work, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will host Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the 2014 AFC Championship.
As Sportscenter illustrates, these two legendary signal-callers have quite the history in the playoffs:
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have met 3 times career in the postseason. Home team has won each time, AND won the Super Bowl.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 13, 2014
Despite the appeal of the matchup, it is by no means an easy way for bettors to come out ahead. While a rematch of a Week 12 bout that saw New England emerge victorious in overtime by a 34-31 margin, too much has changed since then to feel comfortable with simply analyzing that game.
A deeper dive is required, especially with the lines so unfavorable for bettors.
Note: Odds courtesy of Vegas Insider.
Betting Line: Broncos -5
The line here makes all too much sense, especially when one takes into account the three-point difference in Week 12. Both quarterbacks are susceptible to blowing other teams away, but that does not seem to be the case when Brady and Manning meet.
Bettors may want to take a look at recent history for help. If they do so, they will unearth multiple facts that point to a Brady win here. He has 10 wins in 14 games against Manning and is 2-1 against his arch rival in the postseason.
This can be extended to team trends, too. The Patriots have won against the spread and straight up in five of the team's last six meetings against the Broncos.
But one must extend the trends search a bit further to fully encompass the scope of this matchup. The Patriots were 4-4 away from home in 2013 and a horrific 2-6 against the spread.
Sports Authority Field at Mile High is no Gillette Stadium. The meat of the Patriots work as of late has come on the ground via running back LeGarrette Blount, who has 355 yards and six touchdowns on 48 carries in his past two games.
That approach will not work in Denver. The Broncos tout a top run defense that allows an average of just 101.6 yards per game. Denver defensive back Mike Adams and Co. are ready to shut Blount down, as captured by Andrew Mason of the Broncos' website:
Adams, on defending LeGarrette Blount: "We're coming out and we're coming to hit him. We've got to lay some shoulder pads on him."— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) January 13, 2014
A ground approach to keep Manning off the field will not work. Straight up, be sure to bet on Manning at home against a horrendous road team, but take the Patriots against the spread as neither offense will be able to pull away completely.
The line here has been set high because of high-profile quarterbacks, but it is simply a method the oddsmakers are using to lure bettors into a mistake.
Which team wins?
Denver did break a number of records right along with Manning's 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns, but the offense managed just 24 points against the San Diego Chargers in the divisional round—a team that ranks No. 29 overall with an average of 258.7 passing yards surrendered per game.
New England did post 43 points in the divisional round, but it came against a hapless Indianapolis Colts defense that was simply too inexperienced for the big stage.
The legendary status of the quarterbacks is actually why the under is the smart play here. This will make both offenses grind things out on the ground in order to keep the opposing quarterback off the field.
Blount will surely be given a major workload, and Knowshon Moreno's 224 rushing yards and a score against these same Patriots last time around is a testament to the approach the coaching staff takes against Brady.
Play it safe and roll with the under.