Jacksonville at New England
Sunday, Noon PT - CBS
CRIS Opener: New England -8 O/U 46.5
CRIS Current: New England -7 O/U 46
Recommendation: New England
There’s plenty of buzz on the Jacksonville Jaguars here in Las Vegas. I’ve been hearing all week about how well the Jaguars match up with the Patriots and how the warm weather in Foxboro (gametime temperatures in the 40’s) is a major boost for Jacksonville’s chances. Throw in a mysterious Tom Brady hand/wrist injury that kept him out of practice on Thursday and all of a sudden, we’re seeing New England priced in the -7 range at home.
First and foremost; make no mistake about it: Tom Brady is going to play on Sunday. According to the Boston Globe’s Jim McBride, the Hall of Fame QB “didn’t seem hampered in any way” in the part of Wednesday’s practice that reporters were allowed to watch. And Brady consistently misses at least one day of regular practice during the regular season to rest his aging body. The Brady media buzz is just that – media buzz, yet the markets have made a significant adjustment in favor of the road underdog over the past 24 hours.
This isn’t new or different. ‘Sharp’ money has been fading the Patriots, week after week, for the better part of the last two years. New England’s statistical profile is anything BUT elite, particularly on the defensive side of the football, where they rank as low as #31 in the NFL based on highly influential advanced metric stats.
Of course these stats are lying. If you’ve watched the Patriots over the past three months, you know that their September defensive shortcomings did not carry over to the final ¾ of the season. In their last 13 games – since their Week 4 loss to the Panthers – the Pats have allowed a grand total of 182 points, an average of just 14 points per game. Only two of their last 13 opponents have produced more than 17 points against this defense. Yet the stats that wiseguys use say the Pats defense is due for a major correction.
I’m not buying that argument; nor should you. What New England has accomplished ATS over the past two years can only be described as ‘remarkable’. The Pats statistical profile screams ‘bet-against’ , so the sharp $$ fades Brady and Belichick week after week after week. The end result? New England has been the SINGLE BEST pointspread team in the NFL for the last two years, despite their ‘public’ nature as five time Super Bowl champs.
The results don’t lie. New England went an NFL best 16-3 ATS in 2017 on their way to the Super Bowl title, including a 9-1 ATS mark in their last ten games and a 3-0 ATS mark in the playoffs. This year, New England is an NFL best 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games since their 3-3 ATS start, once again ranked as the #1 pointspread team in football. And yet the $$ continues to pour in AGAINST the Pats.
New England is as fresh as any team can be at this stage of the campaign. Over the past month, the Pats have faced the Bills and Jets at home, both easy blowouts, then had a bye week, then another easy blowout over Tennessee last week, also at home. That’s certainly not the case for the Jacksonville Jaguars. They’ve been in intense, down to the wire games in each of the last four weeks; three of them on the highway. No surprise here if the Jags run out of steam at some point in this one.
Last, but not least, let’s not forget about those supposed matchup edges that the Jags have against the Patriots. Jacksonville does have a solid pass rush from their front four and a couple of elite cornerbacks. What they DON’T have is the ability to get those cornerbacks into matchups against the Patriots. Rob Gronkowski – the tight end – led the team with 69 catches this season. RB’s James White, Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead all had 30+ catches out of the backfield. Tom Brady doesn’t have to test Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye here – he can simply find other weapons, something no QB in the NFL does better than him.
The Patriots have been in six straight AFC title games, as experienced as it gets for settings like this one. Blake Bortles and company are about to find out that New England ain’t Pittsburgh