Thursday, January 8, 2015

Indianapolis Colts Vs. Denver Broncos: DEN -6.5 (-117) (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

When these teams met in Week 1, the line was set at -7, but eventually closed at -7.5. For this week's rematch, it once again opened at -7, but now we're seeing signs of it moving the other way. Currently it sits at -7 at EVEN money, which makes it affordable to buy the half point down to -6.5. I'm not sure it makes a full move off the key number, but late money could surprise us. Thus far, 55% of the bets are on the Broncos.

Bottom Line

When these teams matched up in Week 1, I took a pass on Denver -7.5 for the sole reason of a potential backdoor cover from Andrew Luck. And that's exactly what happened. The Broncos were up 24-7 at halftime, only to see the Colts rally for a 31-24 finish. Now we have the opportunity to try this again, but with a more favorable point spread, and an extra week of rest for Denver.

Out of all the games this weekend, I don't think any team will rely more on their QB than the Colts. If Luck doesn't bring his "A" game, they don't have a chance. And even if he does, it's still unlikely they keep this within one score.

Why?

The Broncos are going to protect against the deep ball, and they have a much better (and healthier) defense heading into the post-season then they did last year. For this game, they won't have to worry much about the run game, and they'll allow Luck to take the underneath stuff all day. This defensive unit have been good against the pass all year, and they're good on third down.  The one area where they've struggled is inside their own 20, but some of that is due to garbage touchdowns given up in the 4th quarter.

And this Indy offense isn't as good as it was earlier in the year. Yes, they looked just fine at home against the Bengals, but that was against a defense that had zero pass rush ability. That won't be the case this Sunday.

Can the Luck-Hilton combo be enough to overcome all this?  I doubt it.

When Denver have the ball, they'll basically be able to do whatever they want. Indy have no speed pass rushers up front, so they'll have to employ the blitz in order to get to Peyton - and he's more than capable of dealing with that. This OL finished with the best-adjusted sack rate in the NFL. Manning will also have the 7th best rushing attack to lean on if he wants to take a balanced approach. Once they get inside the 20, they'll face a defense that couldn't keep anybody out of the end zone this year.

When we look at the home-road splits, Indy's defense was much better at home (6th) than they were on the road (21st). In contrast, Denver's offense was number one in the NFL at home, compared with 18th best on the road.

Add it all up and I see clear value on the Broncos. They outmatch the Colts on both sides of the ball, which is only enhanced by home field advantage and extre rest time. I have no issue with laying the points, and I'd even play it at -7 if that was my only option. UPDATE: this spread has been steamed up to -9.5 and -10. Given how long -7's were available during the week, you're too late to the party at this point.

NFL pick: DEN -6.5.

Read more: Divisional picks.