Network Notebook: Did New England Lose its Championship Gear
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS STILL WINNING, BUT NOT AS SCARY AS THEY USED TO BE
Even though the New England Patriots are still very much on the short list for potential Super Bowl champions, they sure aren't playing like a juggernaut this season. As they head into Sunday night's road battle against the Denver Broncos on NBC, there are legitimate questions about whether or not the Belichick/Brady era has come to an end.
Of course, people have been saying that for years!
This time around, the issues are...
*Brady's offense isn't exploding any more. It's trying to manufacture victories with finesse and guile. That's usually the last resort in a championship game against another league power...not something you do in September or October to eke out a win over a non-playoff team.
*Opposing defenses know what's coming, and have learned to at least keep receivers in front of them to contain Patriots drives. Nobody's really figured out how to completely shut down New England. But, slowing them down can be enough to beat them if the Pats are kicking field goals when they used to score touchdowns.
*The New England defense is softer than normal (though improving), which decreases the margin for error the offense has to work with. Brady didn't have to be perfect in his heyday to get the job done. When he was perfect, New England would obliterate people. Now he'd better not throw an interception or it's going to be cashed in for immediate opposition points.
Face it, New England just doesn't scare people like they used to. Right now they're just another name in the hat. A name that lost badly at home to Kansas City...who lost at home themselves to Pittsburgh.
The Patriots are getting respect in the line Sunday night, laying -7.5 on the road in Denver, the week after Philadelphia was only laying -7.5 at home to the very same team. But, that's in response to the Denver debacle last week in the City of Brotherly Love. Denver lost 51-23, which make on the heels of a 10-point loss to Kansas City, a 21-point loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, and a seemingly impossible 13-point loss to the semi-pro team the NY Giants franchise has been putting on the field. Maybe that SNF line is more about dis-respect for Denver.
The Broncos have become the San Francisco 49ers! New England would be a double-digit favorite visiting that group.
This isn't exactly must-see TV in terms of fandom. But, this Patriots/Broncos clash will give you a chance to evaluate Super Bowl potential for the OFFENSE against what will likely be a fired-up defense that doesn't want to get embarrassed at home on national television. If the Patriots are mortal vs. the Broncos...then getting through the AFC will be tough (as both Pittsburgh and Jacksonville have excellent defenses this season)...and winning the Super Bowl would be a coin flip given the likelihood off a good defense being on the other side of the field (rather than soft Atlanta who they rallied against last season).
Still ahead for the Patriots:
2 games against Miami (should be easy)
2 games against Buffalo (good tests)
1 home game against the Jets (should be easy)
Oakland in Mexico City (Ole!)
At Pittsburgh (Circle December 17 on your calendars!)
There's still time to find that championship gear between now and January. But, with a 40-year old quarterback running an offense everyone has seen plenty of already, we're at the point where handicappers have to see this team for what it is. Don't bet on what used to be. Make sure you're betting on the here and now.
Does Denver have a chance to spring the upset? JIM HURLEY'S team of SCOUTS AND SOURCES will learn what they can about the Broncos mindset after last week's disaster. If the players have thrown in the towel on management after they mangled the QB situation so badly, then the Patriots can probably name the score. Denver hasn't hung within double-digits of ANYBODY for a month! But, if the defense is ready to play, this is a defensive dog that could offer value.
Our COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS have been running simulations all week. That's a bit trickier with Brock Osweiler's limited database. At least he's consistent! We're already seeing that the simulations show Denver will need points off Patriots turnovers to compete.
Our TREND HISTORIANS are all over home dog trends on Sunday and Monday Night football to properly account for the likely atmosphere. Our WISE GUY CONNECTIONS are clueing us into smart money and dumb money preferences.
The unique TEAM HANDICAPPING approach of JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK will find an edge if it's there to be found...and will make sure you GET THE MONEY all weekend long!
You can purchase our college and pro football BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 to take care of business. Don't forget to ask about combination packages with basketball. College basketball just started Friday...which only magnifies your bankroll potential.
Back with you Monday to preview a major college football showdown for next weekend. There aren't as many blockbusters NEXT week...but games like Michigan/Wisconsin, Utah/Washington, and Navy/Notre Dame could be worth putting under the microscope.
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