NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: New England Patriots at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sure, I predicted that the Buffalo Bills would be leading the AFC East Division entering Week 5 and that the New England Patriots would be in second place with two losses - as many defeats as they suffered all of last year and as many victories as the 2017 New York Jets. Sure, I did. Also have some beachfront property in Kansas that I'd like to sell you.
Is it time for those of you holding Patriots tickets to panic? The sportsbooks aren't yet. They are still +500 Bovada favorites to win the Super Bowl (had been as low as +190 entering the season), +220 to win the AFC and -700 in the East Division, which they have dominated this century. I'd also refer those of you who think the Patriots are toast to 2014.
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In Week 4 that season, the Patriots were clobbered 41-14 in Kansas City to fall to 2-2. Tom Brady was terrible that night in throwing for just 159 yards and two picks. "Brady was done" was the prevailing opinion and so were the Pats. Well, they went on a seven-game winning streak, lost just twice more and beat Seattle in that thrilling Super Bowl. So, I'd hold off on any 2017 Patriots proclamations quite yet.
Tampa Bay (2-1) was my pick to win the NFC South, and I'm not ready to change my mind yet. The Falcons are -110 favorites and reigning South champions but have looked very mortal in three of four games this year. Carolina is +333 on the division futures with Tampa at +350. One thing I do believe working against the Bucs is the Week 1 postponement in Miami that will now be played Week 11. Not having a bye week during the season isn't fair compared to the rest of the league, but the NFL really had no other choice.
Patriots at Bucs Betting Story Lines
What's more surprising: The Rams leading the NFL in offense a season after finishing last in scoring, or the Patriots ranking second-to-last in the league in scoring defense (32nd in yards allowed) after leading the NFL in that category in 2016? Let's call it a tie, but seeing a Bill Belichick defense get this blown up each week is shocking.
On Sunday, the Pats dropped to 1-2 at home (they should be 0-3; it's the first time they have lost multiple home games before Week 5 since the 2000 season) in losing 33-30 to Carolina - which had totaled 45 points the first three weeks. Cam Newton looked like his 2015 MVP self in throwing for 316 yards. Every opposing quarterback has thrown for at least 300 yards on the New England defense. Drew Brees you get, but Alex Smith, rookie Deshaun Watson and a less-than-100-percent Newton? The secondary was expected to be a strength after the free-agent addition of Buffalo's Stephon Gilmore, but he has been a bust. New England's 128 points allowed are the second-most ever through four games by a defending Super Bowl champion (Giants 129 in 1987).
The offense has been humming along just fine. Brady is playing like an MVP in leading the NFL in yards (1,399), TD passes (10, tied with Aaron Rodgers) and has a rating of 116.6 (No. 2 to Alex Smith) that would be the second-best of his career after that record-setting 2007 season.
Tampa is 2-0 at home after a 25-23 win over the Giants on Sunday. Nick Folk made a 34-yard field goal as time expired - he barely made it. In fact, I think the Bucs might bring in some competition for Folk this week (well, maybe not this week with the short turnaround but next if he struggles again) as he earlier missed two field goals and a PAT in Sunday's game. You may remember kicking woes killed the Bucs last year, and they released 2016 second-round pick Roberto Aguayo midway through this preseason when Folk beat him out. Not that Folk was that much better, though.
Jameis Winston threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns vs. the Giants, avoiding his one bugaboo: interceptions. He led the team on a nine-play, 59-yard drive to get Folk into position for his winner. Winston now has six games with at least three TD passes, already No. 2 in franchise history (Brad Johnson with 8). The former Heisman winner will add another weapon here in (presumed) starting running back Doug Martin, who has finished his four-game suspension that began last year. Tampa is banged up on defense, though, as starting linebackers Lavonte David (ankle) and Kwon Alexander (hamstring) and safety T.J. Ward (hop) all sat out vs. the G-Men. Rather doubtful any of them play here.
Patriots at Bucs Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , New England is a 5.5-point favorite with a total of 55.5. On the moneyline, the Pats are -235 and Bucs +195. The alternate lines will be posted later this week. New England is 1-3 against the spread (1-0 on road) and 4-0 "over/under" (1-0 on road). Tampa Bay is 1-2 ATS (1-1 at home) and 2-1 O/U (1-1 at home).
The Pats are 8-1 ATS in their past nine following a win. The Bucs are 0-4 ATS in their past four Thursday games. The over is 7-0 in New England's previous seven. It's 5-0 in the past five following a win. The over is 7-0 in Tampa's previous five on Thursday. It's 16-5 in the team's previous 21 October games. The favorite is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings.
Patriots at Bucs Betting Prediction
New England is 6-2 all-time against Tampa Bay and has won the past three. But the teams haven't played since September 2013, a 23-3 Pats home win back when Winston was still at Florida State. The eminently forgettable Josh Freeman was the Bucs' QB that day, and he was predictably terrible (19-for-41 for 236 yards, one pick). Martin had 88 yards on 20 carries. Brady threw for 225 yards and two scores.
The Bucs are 1-5 in Thursday night games -- the second-worst Thursday night record in the NFL, while the Patriots always come to play in prime-time matchups. I will stay on their bandwagon one more week before I jump off. Give the points and go over the total.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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