New England Patriots (2-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1)
The Patriots lost last week at home to the Panthers 33-30 on a last second field goal, after the Patriots tied it up in the 4th with back-to-back touchdown drives. Historically, the Patriots have been a great bet after a loss in the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era. Brady is 36-17 ATS in his career after a loss, while Belichick is 46-24 ATS off of a loss since taking over as head coach of the Patriots in 2000. However, we’re not getting any line value with the Patriots this week, as this line actually jumped from 4.5 to 5.5 between the early line last week and the line this week.
Both casual bettors and the oddsmakers know not to doubt Brady and Belichick anymore after their 4th and 5th Super Bowls, so taking Brady off of a loss isn’t as intriguing of a bet as it used to be. Earlier this year, the Patriots/Saints line stayed at 6.5 even after the Patriots lost at home week 1 to the Chiefs as big favorites. The Patriots went on to cover that game, but that’s their only cover of the season, as they lost twice at home as big favorites and nearly lost a 3rd time, needing a last second touchdown drive to defeat the Texans by 2 as 14-point favorites.
The big concern coming into the season with the Patriots was Tom Brady’s age and whether or not he could continue being a high level quarterback at age 40, but Brady looks as good as ever despite his age. The reason the Patriots have been struggling to win games is because their defense looks as bad as it ever has. The Patriots are moving the chains at a 41.76% rate, 2nd in the NFL to Kansas City, but are still -1.77% in first down rate differential because their defense has allowed opponents to move the chains at a 43.53% rate. As good as their offense is, their defense is making opposing offenses look even better.
The Patriots are obviously very well coached and will probably figure out their defensive issues by mid-season as usual, especially since they return most of their 2016 defense, which was one of the better defenses in the league. However, I can’t justify taking them as 5.5 point favorites this week. My numbers have these two teams are 6 points apart, suggesting the Patriots should be favored by only a field goal. I like the advantage Brady and Belichick have on a short week, even on the road, and I think they have a good chance to bounce back, but the Buccaneers are probably the smarter choice against the spread. This is a no confidence pick.
New England Patriots 31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27
Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay +5.5