Hey, kids. It's Pigskin Prognosis 101. Now, you too can preview a football game with as much dim-witted simplicity as the pros.
Ready? Buzz words for this weekend's Patriots-Broncos game matching Bill Belichick against former assistant Josh McDaniels: Teacher, mentor, hoodie. Use them together with a tired pop culture reference, i.e. "The Dark Hoodie shows his pupil he's not ready to be a Jedi quite yet."
See, wasn't that easy? You're doing great.
Now that you've passed Step One, let's move on. The game will be played in Denver, which means the questions about thin air and weather must be asked. This is non-negotiable, and the questions must be posed with the approach that the Patriots have played neither in Denver nor in snow before. If done correctly, this will result in the coach answering the question with as much banality as possible, so you can, in turn, complain later about what a sour puss he is.
All right, next lesson; seeing as this is Belichick going up against a former assistant, it's imperative that you analyze and break down the handshake between the two at the end of the game. Save this for Monday to receive bonus points and amaze all your friends.
Nice work. You're really got a handle on things. Feel free to toss in any number of camera or supermodel cracks, and you'll be on the pregame desk in no time. Good for you.
Who they're picking
Our roundup of national writers' picks for this week's Patriots-Broncos game:
- ESPN.com staff: Patriots across the board.
- Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 23, Broncos 17. "I fully expect Elvis Dumervil to introduce himself to Tom Brady, forcefully, twice at Invesco. But that won't be enough. Brady's rounding into form, and not even the football person who knows him second-best in the world (Josh McDaniels; Bill Belichick would have to be number one) will be able to stop him."
- Cold, Hard Football Facts: Broncos 17, Patriots 16. "Our instinct tells us that Patriots can pull this one out, with the master serving notice to student that he still has a lot to learn. But the data, the Cold, Hard Football Facts, say otherwise. And you know which we way go when those two forces conflict."
- Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 27, Broncos 14. "Can the student beat the mentor? That's what we have in Josh McDaniels going against Bill Belichick? McDaniels' team is the surprise of the league so far, and the defense has been great. But this is where the unbeaten streak ends. The Patriots get a big game from Tom Brady. Mentor takes it."
- CBS Sports staff: Three out of six pick the Patriots vs. the 3.5-point spread.
- Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 24, Broncos 17. "The Broncos' defense has been dominant against its four previous opponents, but no one has had the talent and depth as New England. Brady hasn't had the greatest success against Denver in the past, but that was when Mike Shanahan was coach. He's seen and beaten many 3-4 defenses, and Brady will be well prepared to deliver down the stretch."
- Peter Schrager, FoxSports.com: Patriots 24, Broncos 16. "There's a pivotal scene in this season's "Mad Men" where Sterling-Cooper founder Bert Cooper puts Don Draper, his up-and-coming superstar ad man, right in his place. It's one of those classic "old mentor cuts the young protégé down to size" moments. Look for Bill Belichick to do essentially the same thing to Josh McDaniels this weekend. And in case you were wondering, neither Don Draper nor Bert Cooper have been seen wearing short-sleeved, grey-hooded sweatshirts in any "Mad Men" episodes thus far."
- USA Today staff: Six out of eight pick the Pats. Nate Davis even goes with Pat Patriot.
- Pete O’Brien, USA Today: Patriots 23, Broncos 16. "The NFL has already fined Elvis Dumervil $50,000 and assessed a 15-yard personal foul for "unnecessarily plotting to hit" Tom Brady. And by the way, Denver is the worst 4-0 team ever and they'll be wearing the worst uniforms in the history of humankind and are an even worse Upset Special than they were last week."
- Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 27, Broncos 21. "Plenty of NFLians are not yet convinced that Tom Brady or his Pats are back to powerhouse standards. Even more people are not sold on Denver being all that despite the shiny 4-0 record. This is the Game of the Week because it is going to answer those doubts about each team. Ex-teammate turned NBC mouth Rodney Harrison told Brady to lose the skirt and put on pants. I think Tom will oblige by putting up at least as many points (26) as Denver has allowed in the first four games combined. Brady is 31-3 on TDs/picks in his past 10 October games."
- Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times: Patriots 17, Broncos 14. "It's teacher (Bill Belichick) vs. student (Josh McDaniels). Hard not to like the mentor in this one. The Patriots should get a boost, too, if Wes Welker and Jerod Mayo return."
- Yahoo! sports staff: Patriots across the board.
- Tecmo Bowl simulation: Patriots 21, Broncos 16.
- Our pick: Patriots 23, Broncos 20. There's been a lot of luck so far with the Broncos (hello, Brandon Stokley), and granted they've already played the offensively-inept Browns and Raiders, but last week's win over assumed playoff contender Dallas was legit. Unless Tony Romo really is Texas' version of Jake Delhomme, which, you know he just might be. Still, only the Colts, Ravens, and Saints have gained more yards per game this season than the Cowboys (tied with the Giants with 401), so it's not like we should automatically scoff at Denver's defense – which has only allowed 26 points all season - as a mirage.
I never quite understood the preseason predictions that the Broncos would be a four-game winner, if only because to win in the AFC West you only have to be halfway competent. The Brandon Marshall mess aside, Denver has a good, not great, defense, solid running game with Knowshon Moreno ready to shine, and a pair of wide receivers that have yet to click with their new quarterback. The potential that they do one week soon could be devastating.
This weekend, the Broncos will quiet many of their doubters with a tight game against one of the NFL's elite, with a defense that will bend, but not break against the Patriots. If Stephen Gostkowski is on your fantasy team, you'll be doing backflips.