Each week, Jason Logan breaks down some of the underlying mismatches in the NFL, hoping to give you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule. Here are two of the biggest betting mismatches for the NFL Championship Sunday:
New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (-5.5, 55)
Patriots’ pass rush vs. Broncos’ offensive timing
Lost in the Brady vs. Manning hoopla and the Patriots’ drastic shift in gears to the running game, is New England’s pass rush. The Patriots defense, specifically the guys bombarding the opposing quarterback, are playing their best football of the season.
New England has registered 11 sacks over the past three games, including three sacks on Colts QB Andrew Luck last weekend. The pass rush is throwing opposing offense’s timing off and has been the root cause for the seven passes the Pats’ have picked off in that span – four INTs versus Indianapolis.
Peyton Manning is a watchmaker at the line of scrimmage. Every cog must be perfectly set and timed in order for the offense to work with procession. The Broncos offensive line has done a good job keeping No. 18 clean, giving up just 20 sacks – best in the NFL.
However, in the only two games in which Manning failed to complete 60 percent or more of this passes – losses to New England (53.8%) and Indianapolis (59.2%) – Manning was sacked a total of six times. He also threw an interception in each of those games. Manning threw three picks versus Washington in Week 8 and was sacked twice in that win. Denver hasn’t faced a tough pass rush for a while either, pushing around the likes of San Diego twice, Oakland, Houston, and Tennessee in their last five games.
San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-3.5, 39)
Wilson’s waning play vs. Niners’ knowledgeable defense
Russell Wilson was a dark horse NFL MVP candidate for most of the season. But, with his recent fall from form, questions have been raised about Wilson’s ability to get Seattle over the hump and into the Super Bowl. After averaging 210 yards passing per game on the year, Wilson has tossed for an average of only 127.6 yards over the last three games, including just 108 yards against the Saints.
He’s completed just 52 percent of his passes and lugs a 73.1 QB rating in that span – way off the pace of his 101.2 QB rating on the season. Wilson also isn’t getting the job done with his legs, rushing for just 47 total yards on 10 attempts in that span. If Seattle is going to win Sunday, it needs Wilson to be more than a game manager.
No defense in the NFL knows Wilson better than the Niners. Sunday will be the fourth time these teams will have played over the last 14 months, with San Francisco getting the best of Seattle’s QB in their most recent meeting.
The 49ers limited Wilson to 60 percent passing, held him to two yards rushing, intercepted him once and sacked him twice – including an early sack/fumble from LB NaVorro Bowman that made Wilson think twice about leaving the pocket again. San Francisco, which has limited opposing QBs to a 77.6 rating on the year, had five sacks and two picks versus Carolina last weekend and four sacks in the Wild Card win over the Packers.