The AFC Championship between Denver and New England figures to be one of the most watched football games in years. It also figures to be one of the most heavily bet on games in years, which, for Vegas, will either be really good or really bad depending on the result.
“The general public can’t get enough of the Patriots,” Vegas virtuoso and sportsline.com analyst Todd Fuhrman said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “About 80 to 85 percent of the tickets are coming in the road favorites here. I spoke to several books both here in town and offshore. They’re calling this not only the biggest single decision and liability of the season if the Patriots win for them, but maybe of the last five years. So if there’s somebody rooting for Peyton Manning and this Broncos defense to rise to the occasion, it’s bookmakers here in the desert and all the way out to the Caribbean.”
As of Thursday night, the Patriots were favored by three points.
“It’s a very stubborn number,” Fuhrman said. “I think if people wait and you want to try to back the Broncos, sit tight. You’re going to see 3.5, 4 starting to pop on Sunday. Books aren’t going to be able to withstand the barrage. In then first meeting, we saw sharp money come in on Denver. That number opened at 3 but closed at 2.5, and the Broncos needed – I won’t call it quite a miracle – but a sequence of improbable events to get that win outright and the cover against the Patriots. Much different scenario here. The Manning narrative takes precedence and people know what Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have been able to accomplish, despite the fact that the Brady/Manning rivalry has been dominated by the home quarterback, going all the way back to 2007.”
Brady is 11-5 against Manning in his career, but Manning has won each of the last two AFC Championship showdowns between the two legends. The Broncos also beat the Patriots in Denver in Week 12.
So, why are so many people so high on the Pats this weekend?
“I think people see Peyton Manning, they’re worried about his arm strength, the ducks he threw, and the manner in which they went about beating the Pittsburgh Steelers, letting an undermanned Pittsburgh team hang around for a long period of time,” Fuhrman said. “But you dig into New England’s box score – they were outgunned by the Kansas City Chiefs. They didn’t look like the dominant Patriots we’ve seen in years past, but you figure another week with Tom Brady and Julian Edelman, they’ll continue building that continuity and the offense will click on all cylinders.
“But (they’re) still very one-dimensional (and have) a lot of concerns injury-wise,” Fuhrman continued. “Defensively, we know Jerod Mayo was put on IR, Chandler Jones is still a very iffy situation, and then of course Jaime Collins. How healthy will he be nursing that oblique and back? The big injury to keep tabs on for Denver is obviously Chris Harris, playing with one shoulder. I think, at best, he’s going to be about 60 percent – not exactly an injury you want to have when you’re trying to run and put a body on some of the Patriots receivers that dominate the middle of the field.”