New England Patriots vs. Denver Broncos Preview: Prediction, Best Bets, Odds, Depth Charts (12/24/23)
The NFL’s Christmas Eve game this year is the New England Patriots (3-11) at the Denver Broncos (7-7) at 8:15 p.m. this Sunday (12/24/23). Betting odds have the Broncos as the favorites at -6.5 against the spread, while it could be an ugly game with an over/under set at 34.5 total points.
This article provides Patriots vs. Broncos analysis, predictions and betting recommendations and explains why the best bet in this matchup is the under.
Patriots vs. Broncos Prediction & Best Bet
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all over the field,
No team was scoring, no defense would yield;
The passes were thrown to receivers with care,
In hopes that a touchdown soon would be there.
We’ll spare you the rest of our not so clever attempt to poetically describe this Christmas Eve snoozer. That is our gift to you this holiday season.
In all seriousness, we are not expecting this game to fill us up with holiday spirit. It’s more likely to cause us to fill up on egg nog.
The Broncos’ defense had done a great job of erasing the stink of their 70-point embarrassment against Miami early in the season, but they regressed badly last week against the Lions as Jared Goff lit them up for five touchdowns and completed over 70% of his passes. They also nearly allowed two different 100-yard rushers in the game.
The Patriots’ offense is not the Lions’, so the Broncos are in a good position to bounce back from that dreadful performance. Prior to that game, they had allowed just 16 points per game over their previous eight games, which included games against some good offenses like the Chiefs (twice), Bills and Texans.
The Patriots’ offense has looked more competent with Bailey Zappe under center, but they are still averaging just over 12 points per game over their three games with him starting, and they are 29th in offensive EPA over that span. The possible (but unlikely) return of Rhamondre Stevenson would help, but not enough to change our expectations for this to be a low-scoring, defensive slugfest.
The under has hit in seven of the Broncos’ last nine games and in four the Patriots’ last six games. All together the under has hit in 17 of these teams’ 28 combined games this season. Even at the low line of 34.5 total points, we like the under as the best bet in this game.
Patriots vs. Broncos Prediction & Best Bet: Broncos win 17-13 | Best Bet: under 34.5 total poitns
Patriots vs. Broncos Betting Odds
The spread in this game is sitting just under the key number of 7 at Broncos -6.5, and it’s moving in the Broncos’ direction after opening at -5.5 at most sportsbooks.
The over/under is trending down after opening at 36.5 and is currently at 34.5 across the market.
The implied outcome of these odds is the Broncos winning 26-19.
Patriots vs. Broncos Key Injuries
Two of the Patriots’ best offensive playmakers, RB Rhamondre Stevenson and TE Hunter Henry, are questionable for this game. The Broncos also have a RB and TE on the injury report – Samaje Perine and Greg Dulcich – and edge rusher Nik Bonitto is also worth monitoring.
Patriots vs. Broncos Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Patriots vs. Broncos below.
Russell Wilson vs. Patriots’ pass defense
The Patriots have the best run defense in the league. They are 1st in DVOA, EPA and success rate against the run, and they are allowing the second-fewest rushing yards per game (84.9) and the lowest yards per carry (3.1). However, they are vulnerable through the air, ranking in the bottom 12 in DVOA, EPA and success rate against the pass.
That is how the Broncos will need to attack them to move the ball in this game. Russell Wilson is quietly having a very solid season, especially over his last six games since the Broncos’ bye week. Over that span he is 8th in passing TDs, 12th in passer rating and 6th in completion percentage over expected (CPOE).
Ezekiel Elliott vs. Broncos’ run defense
The Broncos’ season-long defensive metrics are still skewed by the ridiculous game against the Dolphins. They are not nearly as bad as their numbers against the run would indicate – dead last in yards allowed, yards per carry, and DVOA, 27th in EPA and 30th in success rate. But as we saw last week when Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery combined for 185 yards on 6.6 yards per carry, they are still very vulnerable against a strong ground game.
The Patriots don’t exactly have a strong ground game (or a strong anything offensively), but it’s certainly better than their passing attack. Given the matchup, it will be very important for them to run the ball effectively in this game.
Ezekiel Elliott could not get anything going against a vulnerable Chiefs’ run defense last week, failing to build on his 140-yard performance the previous week. With Rhamondre Stevenson likely to miss another game, Elliott should see the lions’ share of the Patriots’ backfield work once again this week, and will have another chance to exploit a weak run defense. If the Patriots have any chance of winning this game, let alone covering the spread, they need a vintage Zeke performance.