EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 23, 2013

Sizing ‘Em Up


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — PATRIOTS (7-3) vs. BRONCOS (9-1)

Today, 8:30 p.m., at Gillette Stadium, Foxboro

TV: Ch. 7 (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya)

Radio: 98.5 FM The Sports Hub (Bob Socci and Scott Zolak)

The series: Denver leads the series overall at 27-19, but the Pats have won four of the last six. Last meeting: Patriots 31, Broncos 21; Oct. 7, 2012 at Gillette Stadium, Foxboro Latest line: Broncos -2.5; Over/under total: 56

2013 STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN

Patriots Broncos

7-3 Record 9-1

1st, AFC East Standings Tie 1st, AFC West

364.0 (11) Offense 455.5 (1)

126.9 (9) Rushing 105.1 (20)

237.1 (16) Passing 350.4 (1)

354.9 (20) Defense 371.8 (23)

125.7 (27) Rushing 92.7 (4)

229.2 (12) Passing 279.1 (28)

+7 Turnover margin -2

BY THE NUMBERS

Patriots

0 — Times since the 2005 season that the Patriots have been underdogs against the Las Vegas line in a game at Gillette Stadium. That streak ends today with Denver -2.5.

5 — Fumbles this season by Tom Brady, only he has lost just one of those five. Compare that to Stevan Ridley, who has lost all three of his fumbles this year.

7 — 12-win seasons for Tom Brady, second overall in NFL history to, yes you guessed it, Peyton Manning, who has nine.

Broncos

2 — Fumbles this year by Denver’s prized rookie halfback Montee Ball, who is finding trouble getting on the field. Ball has run for only 222 yards, and starter Knowshon Moreno leads the way with 600 yards on the year.

10 — Touchdown catches this year by one of the game’s best-kept secrets, Denver tight end Julius Thomas, who is questionable for tonight’s game. He has already tied the team mark for a season set by Shannon Sharpe.

13 — The Broncos might only be a mediocre -2 in turnover margin, but they get them when they matter most. Denver has forced 13 turnovers in the fourth quarter, where it is also a +6 over that frame. By the way, Denver has outscored the opposition by 161 points in the second half.

Keys for the Patriots

1. Ball control to major Tom — Ridley, Vereen, Blount, it really doesn’t matter. The Pats have to slow the pace and keep Peyton Manning off the field.

2. Make the right choice — Do you run Stevan Ridley in a game like this? One fumble could start the avalanche and take you right out of the game. Only Bill Belichick can make this one.

3. Keep the ball in front — You have to play softer defense this week. Keep the ball in front of you and limit the Denver chunk plays. Make Denver have the pressure on them by forcing them to repeatedly make shorter plays.

Hector Longo’s prediction: Broncos 41, Patriots 34 (6-4 straight up; 3-7 vs. the spread)

Analysis: My 3-7 vs. the line is an awful 3-7. So, I can’t say I’m trusting logic in the selection. Peyton Manning doesn’t have good luck vs. Tom Brady. Has Brady played with a defense this shorthanded, though? I just don’t see either defense enjoying any success tonight. The Pats could dictate terms with run or pass. Only the Broncos can stop themselves, though. Peyton Manning has last year’s playoff loss on his brain, and in his thinking this could right that wrong. I guess Denver here, but I’m not that sure folks, believe me.