NFL Betting Advice: How to Handle the Patriots Heading Towards Playoffs
The New England Patriots' bandwagon has more room on it than we have seen in a long time. It has become very popular - especially since losses to the Texans and Chiefs, with the latter breaking a 21-game home winning streak - to declare the era of the Patriots dead. Or at least on life support. But is it? How do we deal with the ever-present force this year? Is anything different than past years? And how? So many questions. Let's seek some answers:
Offense: Tom Brady was not named to the Pro Bowl - the first time that that has happened since he missed the 2008 season with his ACL injury. And not a single other offensive player made the initial roster, either. There are some concerning stats you can dig up around Brady, too, if you are so inclined. He has had five straight games with a completion percentage south of 60 percent, which is tied with his longest streak ever. I am a big fan of yards per attempt as an indicator of QB performance, so the fact that he has had an average below five for the last two games - seven is a benchmark for a decent performance - is concerning. He has done that before but has never had three such games in a row. And his QBR has been below 40 for five straight games, which makes him the lowest-rated QB over that stretch. He hasn't been good, and this offense has struggled.
Our job, though, is not just to find the odds, but to figure out what that means. And that is much tougher. He doesn't have a lot of receiver help, and there has been far too much drama at that position this year, so that is certainly a factor. And the guy is old and has a whole lot of wear on his tires, so that is a concern, too. Remember how un-Peyton Manning-like Manning looked in his last year. But if you want to make that comparison - and many have - you have to remember two things. First, Brady is looking much better now than Manning did then for the most part. And second, led by a stellar defense, Manning still won a Super Bowl that year. There has never been a guy who is better at turning things on when it matters than Brady. His struggles, and perhaps his decline, are staring us right in the face. But it sure would seem foolish to entirely write the team off because of that.
Sure, he can't hold a candle to Jackson or Mahomes right now. But he has never really been that kind of guy, and he still has more rings than fingers on his throwing hand.
Coaching: Is Bill Belichick still in charge? Is Josh McDaniels still running the offense? Then this is still the best coached postseason team in the league, and it's not even close. Forget that at your peril. And that's really all we need to say about that.
Defense: This is not a flashy defense on paper. But they are tops in the league in yards allowed, they are balanced in their effectiveness against the run and pass, and they have allowed the fewest points in the league by a margin of a field goal per game over second best. The offense might not be world class, but the defense is. And that is a luxury that the team has not always had heading into the postseason. We could go on and on, but it doesn't really feel like we need to. The fact is that this is a defense worthy of a lot of respect, and it keeps doing it week after week.
Perspective: With a win on Saturday vs. the Bills , they can clinch yet another divisional title and yet another bye. And Brady can win at least 12 games for his 12th year as a starter. Sure, the team isn't what they would like to be, and the offense is a concern. But they still have the second-best record in the conference, and their three losses have come at Baltimore, Houston and against Kansas City. With the possible exception of the Bills, who the Pats play this week and have beaten once already, those are the best teams in the conference.
Sure, it would be better if New England would have won one or more of those games - they will have to beat two of those teams in all likelihood to get back to the Super Bowl. But they have taken care of business otherwise, and haven't embarrassed themselves. It is not a time to panic.
Oddsmakers sure aren't panicking, either - they still have New England as the second choice to win it all at +450 , trailing only Baltimore at +200. Some of that is because the Patriots are such a public team, of course - if they were a random team from an obscure market with the same record and issues, they wouldn't likely be the second choice. But this is still not a team that is anything other than a top-tier contender. And anyone who wants to suggest that they can be written off has clearly not watched football this year - or for the last two decades.
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