Jacksonville-New England Divisional Betting Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 01/10/2008
The New England Patriots are not the Greatest Team of All Time. They aren't as they sit today, and they won't be if they run the table and win the Super Bowl this season. And to me it's not even an issue.
At least that is this handicapper's humble opinion. And I can say that confidently because I don't have to line up and face them head-on in a cruel, homicidal postseason matchup in Foxboro. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have a rendezvous with the gallows at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
New England, quite naturally, is a 13.5-point favorite this weekend in their Divisional Round game and the total is generously listed at 49 at most Las Vegas sportsbooks.
But the Jaguars are incidental in this historical mosaic. The only real competition for this Patriots team lies in the ghosts of this Great Game. They are competing with immortality, not David Garrard.
There is no rational, empirical way to handicap this New England team. They have destroyed every system, trend, and piece of handicapping logic that has been thrown their way. I mean, routinely facing and topping 20-points spreads is absolutely absurd. But the Patriots have made it look easy. New England is 10-6 against the spread this season with their average number set at 13.4 points. I can't fully explain how freakish those numbers are.
But it gets better. The Patriots are 13-5-2 ATS in January. The Patriots are 41-19-3 ATS against a team with a winning record. The Patriots are 80-47-3 ATS overall since the end of the 2000 season. They may not be the GOAT, but their 63-percent run over the past eight years has to put them at the top of the list for the greatest moneymakers the postmodern gambling world has seen.
New England is also 8-2-1 ATS in its last 11 home playoff games. And despite this fact more than six of every 10 bettors has strolled up to the window and made a play on the Jaguars for this weekend's affair. Apparently, the Recency Effect is in full swing. Gamblers were obviously so impressed with Jacksonville's tip-of-its-fingers victory (and non-cover) at Pittsburgh last week that they think the Jags are primed to stroll into Foxboro and tangle with the titans.
The Pats have displayed some weakness over the past month as they tried to secure the first undefeated regular season in the Expansion Era. They survived against Philadelphia. The officials gift-wrapped a game in Baltimore. They held off a valiant charge by the Jets. And the Giants absolutely handed them their finale. New England has gone 1-5 ATS over its last six games, failing to cover the number by an average of approximately 12 points per contest. Either the rest of the NFL has caught up with them or the oddsmakers have done laps around them.
That being said, how does one punch a ticket against History? I want the Patriots to lose, straight-up, as much as anyone, but that doesn't mean that I would throw a mortgage payment or two on the game out of sheer hatred and resentment towards the dirty, lying, cheating, smug heathens up in Massachusetts. And neither should you.
Sure, Jacksonville can run the ball and play good defense. And that wins in the playoffs. And yes, the Patriots played a weak second-half schedule. But is that reason enough to think that this game will be any different from the 28-3 lesson that New England delivered to the upstart Jaguars just two short Januarys ago? I say no.
(And here is my closing, my epilogue. Co-authored by the Coen Brothers, writers of "No Country For Old Men." If you have seen the flick you may appreciate this. If not, I recommend not watching the Jaguars-Patriots game and going to check it out. Because I already know how it's going to end.)
The original title of this article was going to be, "Dr. Spiteslove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Patriots." I thought it was a good title. But it wouldn't fit.