Friday, September 13, 2013

Denver Broncos vs New York Giants: DEN -4 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

In Week 1 nearly every handicapper I saw, and every bettor proclaiming themselves "sharp", were on the Ravens. Nothing on paper suggested that Baltimore was a good play, so people just went ahead and bet the defending champs on the assumption that "over a touchdown" was too many points.

So now the prevailing thought this week is that because the Broncos were so good in prime-time, and the Giants were so bad on a national stage, it's best to go ahead and bet the Giants at an inflated number of +5.5. Heck, they even bet this all the way down to +4.  Once again, they are putting their money in a depleted dog against Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

Is that wise? After looking at the X's and O's, I don't want my money anywhere near the Giants this early in the season, especially against what could be the best team in the AFC.

In the advanced line, the Broncos were -3 point favorites. They re-opened at the aforementioned -5.5, but now it sits at -4. I waited all week for this number and I'd be very surprised if it moved any further. Let's go ahead and buy back the better Manning at a reasonable key number.

63% of the bets have come in on the Broncos.

When the Broncos have the ball

The Denver offense was already lights out good after 2012. In the offseason they added Welker, Ball, and Dreessen. Coming into the season, it was thought that Dreessen's presence alongside Tamme would take a lot of pressure off of the rest of the lineup. Defenses wouldn't know whether to play base personnel or switch to nickel. Now with Julius Thomas bursting onto the scene, it's even scarier proposition.

So without tripping all over ourselves talking about the greatness of Peyton Manning, let's instead ask ourselves how the Giants defense is going to stop them. Can they? At best, can they limit the points put on the board?

I just don't see how that's possible. The secondary had questions coming into the season, and now they are without Prince Amukamara. Standout safety Stevie Brown was already lost for the year before the regular season. This leaves a downward trending Corey Webster, an aging Aaron Ross, journeyman Ryan Mundy, and mistake-prone Antrel Rolle.  Not good.

On the second level, the G-men have what many consider one of the worst set of linebackers in the NFL. I'm not ready to go that far, but there's no doubt this is a below-average group. The Cowboys took advantage with Jason Witten in Week 1, and the Broncos boast much more threatening options in the mid-level passing game.

Finally, the Giants bread-and-butter pass rush is on the verge of being a distant memory. Jason Pierre-Paul didn't look so great against Dallas, but it's fine to give him a pass considering his rust from surgery. That said, he didn't have a good year in 2012, so is he ready to just transform into a dominating presence in Week 2. Their best hope is Justin Tuck, who had a strong opening game with a sack and three hurries. Otherwise, this group still lingers in "prove it" mode.

I don't see how the Giants are going to make life miserable for Peyton. He's too smart and plays behind a very good offensive line. This is going to put way too much pressure on the back seven to lock things down.

When the Giants have the ball

The best news to come out of Week 1 was the dynamic display of weaponry at the wide receiver position. When Cruz and Nicks are healthy, New York's passing game is top notch.  Now Reuben Randle seems on the verge of a breakout too. There's no doubt that he's going to face favorable coverages all year at the number three spot.

If the Giants are going to cover this number, their best shot will come with a shootout. Yet, for that to happen they need Eli Manning to limit the mistakes and raise his game. He's certainly capable of that, but all three of his Week 1 interceptions came without pressure. He's usually a guy who makes reckless mistakes only when he's under duress.

And speaking of pressure, he's going to need much better protection up front. LT Will Beatty gave up two knockdowns, six hurries, and a penalty. Chris Snee gave up two sacks and three hurries. The rest of the line was average at best. Even without Von Miller, the Broncos do have hope in the pass rush with Shaun Phillips and Derek Wolfe. Phillips had 2.5 sacks in Week 1.

Denver also have the option to mix things up and counter with sub-packages, disguises, and tricks - something they did with great effect in 2012.  If Denver get a lead, this defense likes to come after you.

Luckily, the Broncos hedged in their secondary by signing DRC. They knew that Bailey was aging and could be on the verge of a decline, or be prone to injury. With him out, Denver will continue to be strong, especially with veteran Mike Adams and Rahim Moore at safety. Adams can line-up anywhere and do a wide range of duties. Tony Carter and Chris Harris were excellent last year, so they are in good shape at cornerback. Duke Ehanacho was the biggest surprise after spending most of last season on the practice squad. He had 12 tackles and 11 solo.

In essence, this is where the Broncos can make some ground. If they are going to win and cover this number, they need to win the battle of the air - and they have a decided advantage on both sides of the ball in those areas.

Bottom Line

This is primarily a passing league, and offense is a better predictive measure of wins and losses than ever before. Both teams struggle in the run game, and it would be a surprise if that was a huge factor on Sunday.

Simply put, I like Denver through the air on both sides of the ball. I have great respect for Eli and his wide receiver weapons, but I think the Broncos have enough in the secondary to make some stops. Conversely, I don't see how the Giants are going to stop Peyton. He's had more time to prepare, and a much better supporting cast around him.

My only real concern would be the possibility of a backdoor cover at the end of the game, but I'm willing to take that risk.

NFL Pick: DEN -4.