Why Patriots' Free-Agent Spending Spree Barely Moved Odds
Bill Speros | 6 mins
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Bill Belichick and his faithful pup Nike showed their fangs this week.
In the first two days of the NFL’s legal tampering period, the coach/GM of the New England Patriots guaranteed $137.5 million to seven new players as he revamped his team’s roster. Nike, an Alaskan Klee Kai, gained fame by sitting in for the Patriots coach/GM Belichick during the first round of the 2020 NFL draft telecast.
The Patriots last season finished 7-9 following the departure of Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The free-agents headed to New England this season now include tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, plus wide receiver Nelson Agholor.
The newcomers are almost enough for diehard Patriots fans and bettors to gas up the Duck Boats. Those amphibious vehicles were last used to celebrate New England’s victory in Super Bowl 53.
Everyone seems to be impressed, except for NFL oddsmakers. Belichick’s historic-for-him spending spree has done little to move NFL futures markets concerning the Patriots.
Patriots Face Long Odds To Win Super Bowl, AFC
Here are the current odds for the Patriots to win the Super Bowl, AFC Championship and AFC East.
New England remains a prohibitive longshot in Super Bowl 56 winner odds. The team edged up slightly and settled at +3000 at several sportsbooks to win its seventh NFL championship this season, including PointsBet and FanDuel. The Patriots were getting +4000 odds at PointsBet a few days ago and remain +4000 at William Hill.
New England remains +1400 at both sportbooks to win the AFC Championship, that’s barely unchanged from before the legal tampering period began. The AFC remains a mountain for any team not named the Kansas City Chiefs.
And despite the big-money maneuverings, New England is still the third choice to win the AFC East across most sports betting sites. The Patriots are +375 to win their division at DraftKings, behind the Buffalo Bills (-155) and Miami Dolphins (+350). They are +425 at William Hill and +450 at BetMGM. The Patriots and Dolphins are currently both +350 at FanDuel.
The Patriots have owned the AFC East for the throughout the 21st century, winning the division 17 times and 11 straight years from 2009-19. That run ended with Buffalo’s AFC East title in 2020.
Major Moves On Offense, Defense
On offense, Belichick resurrected his infamous two-tight end set by reeling in Henry from the San Diego Chargers and Smith via the Tennessee Titans. This was last attempted with success in New England a decade ago with then newcomers Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.
Not ironically, Brady and coach Bruce Arians used a pair of tight ends – Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate – to anchor the Bucs during their Super Bowl 55 title run. Brate make the most significant catch in NFL history when he snagged the Lombardi Trophy after it was drunk-tossed by Brady during the Bucs celebratory boat parade.
The rest of the NFL looking at Belichick and the Patriots: pic.twitter.com/mPPV2vh41p— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 16, 2021
The wide receivers potentially available for Cam Newton to target in 2021 include newcomers Agholor (Raiders), Kendrick Bourne (49ers), with former first-round pick N’Keal Harry, one-time Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman plus Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski. It’s unlikely all will be around come Week 1, but the stable of receivers available for Newton is impressive.
Defensively, the Patriots added DB Jalen Mills (Eagles) to add some needed depth and versatility to their secondary, nose tackle / run-stuffer Davon Godchaux (Dophins), defensive lineman Henry Anderson (late of the Jets) to slow the run and outside linebacker Matthew Judon (Ravens) to protect the edge. They also resigned defensive lineman Deatrich Wise, whose specialty is the pass rush.
Belichick preaches “all three phases.” The Patriots were solid on special teams in 2020.
Why Haven’t The Patriots' Odds Shifted?
Cam Newton is happy. pic.twitter.com/f3bip3wF41— Bill Speros (@billsperos) March 16, 2021
The cloud of uncertainty looming over Foxboro still wears Superman’s cape. Newton was a disaster numerically last season in New England, throwing just eight touchdowns while bouncing his way to 10 interceptions and a measly 6.8 yards per attempt.
It’s hard to imagine Newton doing any worse this season given the personnel moves the Patriots have made this week. He’s been gifted with a complement of stable receivers and pair of tight ends who are a near infinite upgrade over what was available this past season.
Yet Newton has yet to inspire confidence in betting markets. He was a non-entity for MVP before the tampering period. Several sites weren’t even offering odds on him winning the award. He had been as low at +10000 at others and was +7000 at DraftKings before his team’s spending spree. He is now +5000 at that sportsbook, in line with Kirk Cousins and Joe Burrow. Newton is not even listed among the 80 players featured in MVP betting at William Hill.
It’s unlikely Belichick is done buying the groceries. The team is reportedly in pursuit of Tampa Bay running back Leonard Fournette, with the possibility of losing James White a real concern. The Patriots are currently slotted to draft 15th in the first round, but multiple mock drafts now see the team moving up to secure a top prospect such as Mac Jones from Alabama or Trey Lance of North Dakota State.
Newton is the starter until further notice. The Patriots still face a real challenge to take their division, never mind return to a Super Bowl. Buffalo has arrived and will only improve in the down the stretch. The Dolphins, meanwhile, could end up with DeShaun Watson. Still, it’s foolish not to consider the Patriots at least a wild card contender now, even with Newton at quarterback. New England’s defense may be good enough to win eight games on its own.
Reality for those wanting to back the Patriots and for adherents to “In Bill We Trust” is simple: “Can Cam Newton return New England to championship contention with this loaded lineup?”
If your answer is “yes,” backing the Patriots at these prices is a no-brainer.
NFL QBs VS THE SPREAD: Tom Brady | Patrick Mahomes | Ben Roethlisberger | Dak Prescott