Tim Tebow has had a magical 2011 season, posting a 7-1 record as a starter and leading the Denver Broncos to several seemingly miraculous come from behind wins, but New England Coach Bill Belichick has specialized in devising defensive schemes to torture and confuse young, inexperienced quarterbacks. New England officially ranks last in total defense, yielding 416 yards per game, but that statistic is very misleading: the Patriots opportunistically force turnovers and thus rank a respectable 14th in points allowed (21.0 per game). The Patriots score 30.5 points per game so, much like Green Bay and New Orleans, in a very real sense their offense is their defense; it is unlikely that the Broncos can beat the Patriots by laying low for 50-55 minutes and then putting up a couple late scores to win a 13-10 nailbiter.
In terms of NFL betting, TopBet Sportsbook likes the Patriots by nearly a touchdown but Fox Sports' Peter Schrager thinks that the Broncos will win outright. The fascinating thing about Tebow, as ESPN's Tom Jackson has mentioned, is that Tebow's critics focus relentlessly on what they think Tebow cannot do but are seemingly unwilling to acknowledge the significant role he has played in Denver's victories; Jackson noted that the critics first said that Tebow could not win a game, then they said that he could not win consistently, then they said that he could not win a shootout and now they are saying that he cannot win a playoff game. Jackson half jokingly noted that if Tebow leads the Broncos to a Super Bowl victory then Tebow's critics will have to resort to saying that Tebow surely cannot lead a team to back to back championships.
Yes, Denver's defense has played well, the offensive line has blocked well for a flourishing running game and kicker Matt Prater has come through in the clutch but the Broncos were not expected to be very good this year (USA TODAY ranked Denver last in the AFC West, as did Sports Illustrated's Peter King) and the Broncos were just 1-4 before Tebow took over for Kyle Orton. Tebow has had a direct impact on the running game and the ability to control the clock has surely helped out Denver's defense as well--but in addition to those obvious tangibles it is foolish to discount the equally obvious but harder to measure intangible ways that Tebow's leadership, demeanor and poise have inspired his teammates: Tebow has a fierce will to win but he is quick to diminish the importance his own efforts in order to praise his teammates and that also surely has affected how the Broncos play on both sides of the ball. Contrast a Tim Tebow soundbite after a Denver win with one of LeBron James' infamous soundbites from last season (including such gems as "taking my talents to South Beach," boasting that he would win "not one, not two, not three" championships and dismissing critics because they would have to return to their dreary lives while James would still get to live his glorious life) and you can vividly see and hear the difference between being a real leader as opposed to simply puffing out your chest before your team has accomplished anything significant.
I expect that the Patriots will "sell out" at the line of scrimmage to force Tebow to pass the ball quickly and that the Patriots will stick to this defensive game plan for all 60 minutes, not just 50 or 55 minutes; Tebow will probably hit one or two long passes against New England's suspect secondary but if the Patriots shut down the run completely and force a couple timely turnovers then they will ultimately put up too many points for the Broncos to match.