Belichick vs. Brady – Who Covers Sunday Night Football Spreads?
|Time||8:20 p.m. ET|
For the past two decades, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s betting on a loss has been one of the best against the spreads (ATS) in the NFL.
Well, we have that on Sunday Night Football.
- Belichick a loss from: 45-20 (69.2%) ATS
- Tom Brady from a loss: 41-14 (74.5%) ATS
Well, the problem is, they’re on different sidelines this weekend.
After finishing two tight games in the fourth quarter, the Bucs lost pretty convincingly to the Rams last week. Meanwhile, the Patriots lost at home to the Saints after splitting their first two games against AFC East opponents in the Jets and Dolphins.
In case you’ve lived under a rock, Brady will make his first return to Foxboro since leaving Tampa Bay in one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the 2021 NFL regular season.
Something has to give.
Tampa Bays defense faces question marks
We know pretty well who the Bucs are, as the Super Bowl champions are giving back every single starter from this title-winning team – they have one of the most dynamic offensives in the league, led by an extremely underrated offensive line, timeless Brady and an explosive wide receiver corps .
Tampa Bay will likely be missing a few pieces this week as Gio Bernard and former patriot Rob Gronkowski won’t be back, who simply have unparalleled chemistry.
Defensively, coordinator Todd Bowles’ 3-4 base defense is once again very stingy. Teams are starting to realize that you shouldn’t even try to face that front in Tampa Bay. Pass defense, however, struggled the season due to secondary school injuries and a pass rush that doesn’t come home as often (32 faster with short passes.
Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting won’t be playing this weekend. That prompted the Bucs to sign Richard Sherman, who will appear to be active. It remains to be seen how much he can put into a new program straight away.
New England is betting on improved defense
The Patriots hope they can count on strong ground play and one of the NFL’s best offensive lines to aid quarterback Mac Jones in his rookie campaign. But while New England ran out of season and spent some money upgrading their guns on the tight end and receiver, the unit still lacks explosiveness.
This is a team looking to win low-scoring games with a ball control offensive, dominant specialty teams, and greatly enhanced defense that has been significantly upgraded in the free agent market.
Last season the Patriots defense had a real struggle because injuries and opt-outs left that closet really empty. Cornerback Stephen Gilmore is on pause, but this is still a top 10 secondary site that without him takes fourth place in Football Outsiders DVOA pass defense.
The first seven are much better from a talent standpoint, but they have struggled to defend the run so far and are ranked 28th in the DVOA.
The case for betting the Bucs
It’s a very simple case.
Jones and the Patriots Offensive (26th in DVOA) just can’t keep up with Brady and this Bucs Offensive (fifth). Plus, it’s just not a great matchup with a run-heavy New England offensive facing one of the stingiest running defenses in the NFL.
The Patriots will also miss walking back on James White, who served as a safety blanket for Jones in temporary situations.
The Bucs have problems in secondary school, but the Patriots do not have the weapons to consistently exploit these current weaknesses. And yes, Patriots high school was good, but they’ve faced Jameis Winston, Zach Wilson, and Tua Tagovailoa so far – not exactly a series of killers by pass.
Brady versus a rookie quarterback? Easy decision.
The arguments for betting the patriots
These patriots might actually be undervalued after looking so bad last week they dropped to 1-2.
Even so, they beat the Dolphins in the opener with a point loss thanks to two fumbles (one of which was controversial). Then last week against the Saints, New England, New Orleans actually won, averaging more yards per game, but the Patriots were again made to fail by ball losses (including a pick-six from a tipped pass) and a prayer that made Winston vomit condemned on a landing.
New England could easily have entered this game with a 3-0 record.
Plus, getting a touchdown or more at home in the NFL is always a fascinating proposition.
You also need to trust that Belichick has developed some kind of game plan to slow down and possibly confuse Brady and these receivers. We’ve seen some former New England assistants develop effective fixtures against Brady, including Titans head coach Mike Vrabel in the playoffs and even Matt Patricia when his Lions beat the Patriots straight out as touchdown underdogs in prime time.
Also, don’t be surprised if the Patriots play a big game or two in special teams where they should have a significant advantage, as they do against most teams.
After all, while Brady has been the dominant ATS in his career after losing, he’s only 10-11 ATS as a favorite of seven or more in this situation.
Buccaneer patriot selection
From a pure power rating perspective, I see a low value in the number for the Patriots at home, even with reduced home advantage values across the league.
If I had to guess how it ended up too, I’m assuming Belichick will actually have some nuanced looks to confuse Brady early on and / or just get the Bucs to hit the ball in a bend don’t break – Running defense against lightboxes will rely on getting stops in the red area.
I also expect the offense will play a lot slower to keep Brady on the sidelines.
Can Jones and an overwhelmingly broad audience of recipients take advantage of the understaffed Bucs secondary school with an efficient short-pass attack? Brady gets all the publicity here, and rightly so, but I actually think that’s the key to the game.
I’m on the pats +7 side you can find all over the market at the time of writing (buy the best line here) but it’s a small bet and I certainly wouldn’t go under a touchdown.
From an over / under perspective, it’s a pretty fair number. But if the Patriots could slow the game down and force the Bucs to run it while confusing Brady, it would likely not only result in New England cover but also be very conducive to underplay.
Choose: Patriots +7 or better (small stake)