I admit it: I’m a sucker for great rivalries, no matter the combatants. Ali vs. Frazier, Giants vs. Dodgers, Agassi vs. Sampras, Lakers vs. Celtics, Don Draper vs. the bottle, Kanye vs. his tongue, Miley vs. self-respect—I love ’em all … except one. Since you’re surely unaware, allow me to break the news that on the first Sunday afternoon of November, Peyton Manning faces Tom Brady in New England. (I know, you’d think the NFL would be overhyping this like CNN has Ebola. Weird.)
What is it about Manning vs. Brady that turns me off? Let me count the reasons: For starters, they’re both quarterbacks, and thus don’t actually face each other, so it’s not a true rivalry. Then there’s the nauseating mutual lovefest between the two (which the NFL’s media partners, as part of their 24/7 Manning-Brady coverage, insist on shoving down our throats). And there’s the fact they’re both extremely arrogant when things are going well (especially Brady) and extremely petulant when things aren’t (there’s a reason Googling “The Manning Face” yields more than 62 million results, topped by ManningFace.com, a real website).
More than anything, I detest Manning vs. Brady Week because, well, I’m jealous as hell. They both win. A lot. Especially against my Chargers, whom Brady and Manning have trampled en route to multiple Super Bowls.
So why am I using this space to feed the hype machine for Manning-Brady XVI? Because their clash will probably entice more betting action than any other non-prime-time game all year—and because I risk NFL pooh-bah Roger Goodell sentencing me to 10 years-to-life if I ignore it. So let’s see if we can at least win some money off this sucker, as Denver heads to New England as a 3-point road favorite:
- The Patriots are 6-2 straight-up and 4-4 against the spread. Since a humiliating 41-14 Monday night loss at Kansas City, Brady & Co. have won four in a row (3-1 ATS), outscoring the opposition 158-87. At home, New England is 4-0, with blowout wins over the Bengals (43-17) and Bears (51-23), and shaky performances against the lowly Raiders (16-9) and Jets (27-25).
- The Broncos are 6-1. After failing to cash in their first three games, they’ve won and covered four in a row, crushing the Cardinals, Jets, 49ers and Chargers 149-75. However, three of those contests were in Denver; the Broncos have played just two road games, beating the Jets 31-17 and losing at Seattle 26-20 in overtime.
- The combined record of the Broncos’ seven opponents is 29-23 (they’ve faced just one team that’s below .500). The combined record of the Patriots’ eight foes is 24-34-1 (half their games have been against squads that are below .500).
- The Patriots are 10-5 against Manning, but 4-5 in the last nine battles, including a 26-16 loss in Denver in last year’s AFC Championship Game.
- Including Manning’s time with the Colts (but not including a 2011 game when Manning was injured), the home team has won six straight meetings, but is just 3-2-1 ATS.
- The Patriots are 9-1 ATS as a home underdog in Brady’s career as a starter. That includes last year’s 34-31 come-from-behind win over Denver and this year’s 43-17 beatdown of Cincinnati in Week 5—the only times since 2006 that New England has been a home pup.
The verdict: I wouldn’t bet the side in this game with either QB’s fortune. Ah, but the over/under of 55—that’s a different story! The Pats have topped the total in five straight games (averaging 39.5 points); Denver has done so in four straight (averaging 37.3 points); and the last six regular-season Manning-Brady Bowls have hurdled the total.
Make it seven straight “overs”—unless, of course, the BFFs simultaneously pull a hamstring giving each other pregame hugs.
Last Week: 2-5 (1-3 NFL; 1-2 college; 0-1 Best Bet).
Season Record: 25-31 (12-17 NFL; 13-14 college; 3-5 Best Bets).
Matt Jacob appears at 10 a.m. Fridays on Pregame.com’s First Preview on ESPN Radio 1100-AM and 100.9-FM.