Bettors Can Keep Backing Patriots Thanks to Brady, Belichick
The New England Patriots return from their bye week for a marquee showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, a rematch of the 2018 Super Bowl.
They’re 8-1 and in the driver’s seat for homefield advantage in the AFC Playoffs. No team wrecked the competition the way the Pats did through the opening eight weeks of the season.
Then Week 9 happened.
Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens jumped out to a 17-0 lead on Tom Brady and the Patriots, withstood a Pats push and rolled to a 37-20 victory. That’s an eye-opening loss for a team that had cruised up to that point.
So what do we make of the Patriots? Are they still the team to beat in the AFC, above the surging Ravens and the down-but-not-out Chiefs?
Their Super Bowl odds are still far lower than any other team. But does any value remain in taking the favorite?
Why You Should Back the Pats
They’re Not Losing
Prior to the humbling loss to Baltimore, New England had been in just one competitive game all year. The Pats edged the Bills 17-16 in Buffalo, but even that required one of the worst games of Brady’s career.
The Patriots may have succumbed 37 points to Jackson and the Ravens, but that upped the season points allowed to just 10.9 per game. Only one other team is even remotely close (the 49ers allow 14.3, second-best). Only one team averages more points per game than New England, which comes in at an event 30 ppg (the Ravens average 33.3). That’s a 20-point differential per game.
Five of their eight wins were by at least 20 points. Only three teams in the Super Bowl era have won eight or more regular-season games by two TDs: the 2007 Patriots (10), 1999 St. Louis Rams (9) and 1996 Packers (8). All three advanced to the Super Bowl, and all but the ’07 Patriots (who went 16-0 in the regular season) won it all.
They Have Brady and Bill Belichick
We keep waiting for the “Evil Empire” to take a dip. But nearly two decades in, we’re still waiting. Since 2001, they’ve missed the playoffs twice (and went 9-7 and 11-5 those years) and have advanced to the Super Bowl four of the last five years, winning three of them.
Why you should be wary of the Pats
Strength of Schedule
Namely, the lack thereof. Sure, the Patriots have dominated the opposition. They’ve faced just two teams with winning records: the Ravens, who rolled them, and the Bills, who probably should have won.
They rolled the Steelers 33-3 in the season opener, but Pittsburgh opened 0-3 before straightening the ship. The other six games they’ve beaten are a combined 12-43. The best of the group is the Browns (3-6).
Strength of Competition
We can safely assume the Patriots are going to win the subpar AFC East once again and get to the playoffs. But the AFC is top-heavy, and the competition at the top is legit. The Chiefs, Texans and Ravens will provide huge challenges to New England’s defense, and the Bills shut down Brady once already.
Historically Dominating Defense no Guarantee of Ring
Few teams in NFL history can match the statistical dominance that the New England defense has put out there this season.
But as history would tell us, dominating the regular season on that side of the ball has rarely led to a championship.
There’s reason to have some reservations about backing the Patriots. Their strength of schedule ranks dead-last in the NFL and in the two toughest matchups they’ve had, they won by one point in one of them and were blown out in the other.
But this is Brady. This is Belichick. The personnel changes around them and they continue to reach the mountaintop. They’ve rolled in eight of their 10 games and are on pace to have one of the top defenses in decades.
We’ll know a lot more about them in the coming weeks, as they face the Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and Chiefs the next four weeks. They get it done over the next month, those odds are going to drop even further.
One warning to Philadelphia: The Patriots are 14-5 off the bye week under Belichick and have covered the spread in their last five games post-bye.