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Week 5 Thursday Night Football Preview: New England Patriots vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Betting Advice

By Peter Brooks in Sports
| October 3, 2017 12:00 am PDT
thursday-night-football-patriots-bucs

Each NFL season brings its own surprises, which is one of the main reasons why it’s so fun to make prognostications and future bets in the offseason for what we believe is going to happen. And there is no prognostication and no future bet that is more enticing during the offseason than which team will win the Super Bowl.

When Super Bowl odds are released each offseason – immediately following the end of the Championship game – you often see the Super Bowl winner favored to repeat for the next season. Naturally, given the recency of the last Super Bowl, the confidence of the casual bettor is easily swayed.

However, this confidence that Super Bowl winners will repeat is often misplaced, as only one team has done it in the 21st century.

More often, we see Super Bowl teams suffer a dramatic “Super Bowl hangover” the following season, a term which defines the fall from grace that the championship-winning team will often experience the following year.

In some cases, it’s the financial repercussions of stacking your roster for one big shot at a title. In others, it’s the mental challenge of climbing that mountain once more.

But whatever the reason, the team that wins the Super Bowl will often find themselves in a very different position the following year, and usually, the results are very much not for the better.

For example, take the last two Super Bowls:

  • At the end of the 2015/16 NFL season, the 15–1 Carolina Panthers took on Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos for the right to be called world champions. The following season, Peyton Manning had transitioned into a career as a commercial jingle artist, the Broncos missed the playoffs, and the Panthers only won five games.
  • At the end of the 2016/17 NFL season, the dynamic and seemingly unstoppable passing offense of the Atlanta Falcons duked it out with the perennially contending New England Patriots, and by all accounts, the Falcons should have won the game. Coming back to erase a 25-point deficit, Brady and Belichick won their fifth Super Bowl ring together.

Now, even though the Atlanta Falcons have started out the season 3–1, two of their wins have come due to the failure of an NFC North team (the Bears in Week 1 and then the Lions in Week 3) to score the go-ahead touchdown on the goal line and end the game.

After watching their bad loss to the Bills, we see that the Falcons could just as easily be 1–3 as 3–1.

  • Who: New England Patriots (2–2) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2–1)
  • Where: Raymond James Stadium. Tampa, Florida
  • When: Thursday, October 5, 2017. 8:25 PM (EST) on CBS

And of course, the big story for this Thursday Night Football matchup between the New England Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is that the Patriots are 2–2, tied for second place in their division with none other than the New York Jets, and they have the worst defense, statistically, in the entire NFL.

If anyone had made the claim in the offseason that the New York Jets and the New England Patriots would be tied through the first quarter of the season, and that the Jets would be outperforming the Patriots in many statistical categories, that person would have been run out of town on a rail.

But as we mentioned above, each NFL season brings its own surprises, and so far, the Patriots are one.

On the side of Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers have had some surprises of their own.

In the offseason, no one in Tampa would have expected to have a bye week the first week of the season, a circumstance that was forced upon them by the extreme weather in Florida and which will certainly have an impact down the stretch when injuries start to pile up and the team has no reprieve.

As far as the product on the field, however, the Buccaneers appear to be continuing to make progress into the Jameis Winston era, with their young star leader progressing and their new cadre of offensive weapons just starting to click.

Luckily for us, not only will the upcoming Thursday Night Football game between the Patriots and the Buccaneers give us an opportunity to see whether these surprise curve balls that the 2017/18 NFL season has thrown are here to stay, but it will also give us an opportunity to stake our claim beforehand and prognosticate through our wagers.

In the following article, we’ve provided all the information you’ll need to make an informed decision on the following bets, and we’ve tacked on our own predictions in each of the following categories:

  • Moneyline bets
  • Bets against the spread
  • The total score over/under bet
  • Any prop bets or futures that could hold value

Veteran NFL fans know that the game is full of surprises, and this young season is no exception. While it’s far too early to tell whether or not the New England Patriots have officially lost out on the opportunity to repeat as Super Bowl champions, this game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football will undoubtedly impact their chances one way or another.

Patriots vs. Buccaneers Betting

FootballMoneyline
  • Patriots -240
  • Buccaneers +200

When picking a game straight-up for moneyline odds, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the two teams matchup holistically, in order to determine which team we expect to have a mental advantage.

In our experience, the team that is able to maintain their mental toughness throughout the entire game generally winds up with the momentum swinging irrevocably onto their side, and most of the time leads on the scoreboard when the final whistle blows.

On the other hand, when a team cedes its mental edge and loses its mental toughness, mistakes start to pile up. Assignments get missed, coverages get blown, fouls are committed, and the general progress of the game often turns into a downward spiral that leads to the team losing.

In this case, we do believe that home field advantage plays a role in which team has a mental edge.

So far this young season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2–1, and they have also played two games at home and one game on the road. Not coincidentally, their one loss came in their road game against the Minnesota Vikings.

While naturally being on the road was not the only reason why the Buccaneers lost their Week 2 game when we watch the game film of the Bucs’ two home games, it’s clear that they are getting an advantage from the crowd.

Perhaps because of the way that the team is playing, or perhaps because of the city bonding together in the wake of the severe weather in early September, Buccaneers fans are out en masse and are making it difficult for opposing offenses to communicate when they’re in Raymond James Stadium.

External events either make or break a team. It seems to us that the severe weather in Florida has bonded the Bucs together, just as it has broken the Dolphins apart.

One of the biggest reasons that we see for why some teams triumph over adversity (or often because of adversity) and some teams fall apart under the strain is leadership.

If you compare the two Florida teams who saw their Week 1 game canceled, it’s clear that the Buccaneers have a much more solid and complete leadership presence than the Miami Dolphins.

Not only has Miami’s hastily acquired stopgap quarterback Jay Cutler been with the team for less than two months (coming out of retirement probably because of the dramatic difference in salary between being a broadcaster and being a starting NFL QB), but the whole situation with Miami’s coaching staff and unfortunate quarterback situation has left a bad taste in the mouth of many fans.

Jay Cutler has been accused of many things, but he’s never been accused of uniting a franchise.

Across the NFL, fans, pundits, league sources, and of course everyone who had the opportunity to watch this past season of HBO’s Hard Knocks has had ample opportunity to see just how special the leadership qualities of Jameis Winston are, and with the whole team and coaching staff rallying around him (not to mention all of the fans in the stadium), we believe this provides the Buccaneers a serious advantage.

However, if there’s one force of personality that can rival Jameis Winston, it’s the combination of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick when the Pats are coming off of a loss.

And we all see it, on the sidelines. Despite being remarkably calm and poised off the field, when Tom Brady is trying to motivate his team to compete harder during a game, he can be an absolute terror. Brady expects perfection out of himself and his teammates, and when things aren’t going his way, you’d better get out of his way!

In addition, with the Patriots tied with the Green Bay Packers for the league lead in consecutive playoff appearances, it’s obvious that the coaching of Bill Belichick plays a huge role. You don’t make the playoffs year after year without understanding the ebbs and flows of an NFL season, and in particular how important it is not to let one loss snowball into falling multiple games behind in the division.

More importantly, the statistics bear it out: Since 2001, the Patriots are 38–11 coming off of a loss.

What this means is that of the 49 applicable regular season losses that the New England Patriots have suffered since Tom Brady took over as the full-time starter in 2001, the Patriots have lost the next game only 11 times. Considering the fact that this statistic has been compiled over a 17-year span, this means that on average, the Pats suffer back-to-back losses once every ten games.

The last time that the Patriots suffered back-to-back losses was two seasons ago, when their four losses for the season were suffered in Weeks 12 and 13, and then again in Weeks 16 and 17.

But rest assured that we wouldn’t make our decision based purely on some statistical trend. The only reason we point out the statistics behind the Patriots’ record after a loss is to illustrate that the Pats will undoubtedly be coming into this game with a fire in their bellies and that Belichick and Brady will be working their leadership (and schematic) magic to instill confidence in the group.

Of equal importance for the mental advantage in this game is the fact that it happens on Thursday.

Playing games on a truncated week adds a lot of difficulties into the lives of coaches and players that fans don’t appreciate. The younger the team, (and the less experienced with Thursday Night games), the bigger the difficulty.

We like the New England Patriots to win this game on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because, despite the fact that the home crowd has been especially fired up so far this season in Tampa, we believe that New England will quiet them early with a dynamic passing attack. Look for Brady and Belichick to out-scheme the young Bucs, regardless of how the Pats’ defense holds up.

The New England Patriots haven’t had a losing record more than 4 games into a season since 2002. We don’t see them starting now.

Pick: Patriots to win

FootballSpread
  • Patriots -5.5 (-110)
  • Buccaneers +5.5 (-110)

Now that we’ve established our pick for the New England Patriots to win on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of the superior mental advantage provided by the force of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady coming off of a loss, it’s now time for us to turn our attention to the question of whether the Patriots will win by more than 5.5 points.

In picking games against the spread, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s offense matches up against the losing team’s defense.

In our experience, if the winning team’s offense matches up particularly well against the losing team’s defense, the winning team will generally also win against the spread. On the other hand, if the losing team is able to generate stops and keep the winning team out of the end zone on a good number of their offensive possessions, the game can end up close.

In this case, the matchup to watch is between the Patriots and the Buccaneers defense.

The Pats’ offense is currently ranked #2 in the league in scoring (behind the Los Angeles Rams, believe it or not) with 32.3 points per game. The majority of this production has come in the passing game, with the team ranked #1 in passing yards (with 328.3 per game) and #20 in rushing yards (with 95.5).

Last week against the Panthers, Brady looked especially sharp, completing 32 of his 45 pass attempts for 307 yards and two touchdowns, and bringing the team back from a 14-point deficit in roughly 10 minutes of game time in the 4th quarter.

To make a long story short, the question of whether the Patriots’ offense has what it takes to score points is very simple: Yes, they absolutely do have what it takes.

The better question to ask is whether the Buccaneers’ defense will be able to put any pressure on the Patriots.

Last week, against a Giants’ offense that has been incredibly well-documented for how abjectly terrible they have played through the early going of this season, the Buccaneers did end up with the win, but didn’t look nearly as impressive as they could have against a team that has essentially no offensive line, an injured Odell Beckham Jr., and really no other major weapons to speak of.

The Giants had scored a combined 13 points in the first 11 quarters of the season, and the Bucs surrendered 14 points to New York in a span of just over 11 minutes of game time.

Most worrisome for Bucs fans had to be the fact that despite the Giant’s offensive line being clearly among the worst and most ineffective in the entire National Football League so far this season, the pass rush for Tampa Bay was unable to record even a single sack.

The Buccaneers’ defense is dealing with some injuries at this point in the season.

Six-year pro Levonte David is out, a second-round pick by the Bucs in 2012. David has made it to the Pro Bowl, the Second-Team All-Pro, and the First-Team All-Pro, and led the defense in snap count last season, ending up in on 98% of the team’s defensive snaps. David suffered a left medial-ankle sprain in the Bucs’ Week 3 loss to the Vikings and should miss at least a month.

Adding to the thinness of the linebacking corps, third-year player Kwon Alexander has been held out of the last two games with a hamstring injury, another player who was in the top 3 in terms of defensive snap count last season. It’s unclear if he will be ready to go against the Pats, or if Tampa Bay will hold him out of this Thursday Night matchup to give him an additional 10 days of rest and recuperation.

Finally, starting defensive backs T. J. Ward and Keith Tandy are both questionable in this game. Ward was an offseason acquisition from the Denver Broncos, and Tandy was a key contributor last season for the Bucs.

Altogether, we think the case is pretty airtight for the Patriots to be able to score points on offense.

It’s clear that the line of 5.5 more concerns the ability of the Patriots to generate stops on defense, which we’ll cover in detail in the next section. But we do believe that the Pats will have enough offense to win by more than 5.5.

Pick: Patriots to win by more than 5.5

FootballTotal Score
  • Over 54 (-110)
  • Under 54 (-110)

Now that we’ve established our prediction for the New England Patriots to win on the road because of the superior mental advantage provided by Brady and Belichick coming off of a loss, and we’ve also picked the Patriots to win against the spread because of the way that their offense matches up against Tampa Bay’s defense, it’s time for us to turn our attention to the total score over/under bet.

When picking games for the total score over/under bet, our philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s defense matches up against the losing team’s offense.

In our experience, when the winning team is both able to generate enough points to win against the spread and to generate stops on defense, the combined score of the game will almost certainly end up going under the posted total. However, when the losing team is able to score points, the game will often turn into a shootout that pushes the over.

In this game, the key matchup is between the Patriots’ defense and the Buccaneers’ offense.

Even though the Patriots have gained the most yards in the league and the second-most points, they are still only ranked #15 – almost exactly in the middle of the league – in terms of time of possession. You would think that for a team that is so able to move the ball, they would be able to control the clock.

Now, part of the reason for this has to be the fact that the Patriots have been moving the ball primarily through the air. But if this were the case, then you wouldn’t expect the Pats to be ranked #4 in total number of plays, as well as #4 in number of yards per play on offense.

Instead, the overwhelming reason why the Pats can’t control the time of possession is because their defense can’t get off the field.

So far, through four games, the New England Patriots have the 2nd-worst offense in the league, in terms of points (allowing an incredible 32 points per game) and the worst offense in the entire NFL in terms of yards, with an amazing 456.8 yards given up per game (or 7.16 yards allowed per play, also the worst in the league).

The big question in everyone’s mind is what in the world is wrong with the Pats’ D.

In Week 1, they allowed Kareem Hunt to have one of the best statistical nights for a rookie in history. In Week 2, Drew Brees threw for 436 yards, and the Saints had 555 total yards. In Week 3, they made rookie Deshaun Watson look like the MVP of the league. And last week, despite Cam Newton’s struggles this season, the Pats allowed the Panthers to convert for a 1st on two-thirds of their 3rd down plays.

One of the key statistics for defenses is the number of big plays allowed. So far this season, the Patriots’ defense has allowed an astonishing 18 plays of 20 or more yards, 7 of which went for 40 or more.

Having clearly stated the problem, let’s start hunting for the reason why the Pats have been so bad on defense through the first quarter of the season:

  • Coaching: Good coaches and coordinators are quick to take the blame for what happens on the field, but in reality, everything does start up top. Belichick and former rocket scientist Matt Patricia have a well-established track record of fixing what’s broken, but so far there’s just been too many holes to try and plug all at once. We expect some personnel changes soon.
  • Communication: Even good defenses with solid rosters will look bad on the field if they’re not communicating well. If you need proof, just look at the Seattle Seahawks through the first seven halves of the season. We’ve certainly seen some blown coverages and communication snafus thus far through four games, which is definitely not what we’re accustomed to seeing.
  • Injuries: Linebacker Dont’a Hightower (who made such crucial plays in the Super Bowl comeback last season) spent some time away with a knee injury suffered in Week 1. Marcus Cannon and Eric Rowe missed Week 3. Shea McClellin is on IR, and so is sophomore cornerback Cyrus Jones. The Pats are getting healthier, but it doesn’t help continuity to have people out.
  • Pass Rush: Pats fans had to expect that there would be some sort of an issue with pass rush going into this season. With Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard both walking in free agency and longtime team leader Rob Ninkovich retiring, it was obvious that new faces needed to step up. Rookie D-tackle Deatrich Wise has complemented Trey Flowers, but they need more bodies.
  • Secondary: Heralded in the preseason as one of the best units in the league, they haven’t played like it so far. Stephon Gilmore, the $65 million dollar man, has made several big mistakes. Malcolm Butler simply hasn’t looked like himself. The safety trio of Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, and Duron Harmon have also looked out of sync. No real explanation; just bad play.
  • Leadership: Expert sources around the league credit the bulk of the issues as less about personnel (except, perhaps, in the pass rush) and more about The Pats don’t really have that one vocal leader on the field who will set the tone, and rally the troops around him. As we mentioned above in the point about communication, the mental side of defense is crucial.

Pats fans might like to think that Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia will be able to effect some magic change that sees the defense immediately turn the corner and right the ship. But as we can see, pretty clearly, the issues are manifold. It’s going to take time and dedicated effort to turn things around.

The Patriots’ struggles on defense are great news for Bucs fans, especially the inability of New England’s secondary to stop anyone in the passing game.

So far this season, the Buccaneers are ranked #3 in the league in passing yards, averaging 277.7 yards per game (their total number of yards lags behind, naturally, because of their missed Week 1 matchup against the Miami Dolphins).

Last week, against the supposedly-stout New York Giant defense, even after two missed field goals and a mixed extra point from Nick Folk (who was supposed to be an improvement from 2nd-round draft bust Roberto Aguayo), the Bucs still managed to put up 25 points and win the game. Quarterback Jameis Winston was especially sharp, going 22 of 38 for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns.

The big issue for the Buccaneers’ offense thus far through three games has been staying on the field.

Despite having the 5th-most yards per play in the league, they lag down near the bottom of the league in terms of time of possession (2nd worst in the NFL) and number of plays (ranked 26th in the league). In addition, the average Bucs’ drive lasts only 2 minutes and 32 seconds, which is ranked 25th in the league.

In short, the Buccaneers are breaking off long passing plays left and right, but they don’t seem to be able to move the ball on the ground.

So far, the Bucs are ranked #3 in passing yards (with 277.7 yards per game), but 25th in rushing yards (with 84.7 yards per game). The biggest reason for this has been the absence of Doug Martin, who despite having a down year last season was only 83 yards short of leading the league in rushing in 2015/16.

Martin was required to sit out of Tampa Bay’s first three games due to a lingering four-game suspension that was levied at the end of last season. Having a fresh Doug Martin on the field will undoubtedly help the Bucs find some more balance on offense, as they have been throwing the ball on 62.2% of their offensive snaps so far this season.

Ultimately, we like the Bucs to score points in this game because we believe Jameis Winston is better.

While it’s true that Winston has flashed back into some of his old bad habits so far this season, throwing an interception or two because he tried to force the ball into triple, quadruple, or even quintuple-coverage, we’ve also seen a few plays this season that have indicated some major maturation for the young man.

For example, take a play last week against the New York Giants, a 3rd-and-3 around the 30-yard line of New York, late in the first half.

With his offensive line providing plenty of time for him to move around in the pocket and needing only a few yards, the dual-threat quarterback could have easily run for the first down – he had space. A rookie quarterback like Deshone Kizer or Deshaun Watson would have likely settled for a first down scramble, as perhaps Winston himself would have earlier in his career.

However, Winston didn’t settle. Instead, he kept his eyes downfield the entire time, surveying the coverage of the Giants and going through his progressions, and finally threw a beautiful long ball that was hauled in all the way down by the goal line. What could have been first-and-ten at the 30 turned into first-and-goal at the 1.

For the total score bet in this game, we believe the Bucs will score enough points to push the over.

The Patriots will likely take one or two steps forward in this game, plugging in some fresh rotations and simplifying their defensive scheme, and they could potentially stop the Bucs’ running attack as Tampa tries to reintegrate Doug Martin into the game plan.

However, once the Patriots take a lead in the game, we don’t see their anemic pass rush putting enough pressure on Winston to rush his throws, and we don’t see their discombobulated secondary holding up in coverage for long enough to stop the train of Winston, Evans, Brate, and Howard.

Once the Bucs get in a hole and start throwing the ball, they’ll put up plenty of points. Take the over.

Pick: Buccaneers 24, Patriots 35

FootballProp Bets

Now that we’ve established our prediction for the game – that the New England Patriots will win on the road with the mental advantage of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick coming off of a loss on a short week, that the Patriots’ offense well good enough to push win against the spread, and that the Patriots’ defense will be bad enough to allow the total score to go over – let’s now turn our attention to some prop bets that will allow us to profit off of this view of the game.

Specifically, we believe that the following wagers could potentially hold value:

  • Tom Brady to go over his posted total for touchdowns. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And if there’s one thing to galvanize the tough, vocal leader that plays quarterback for New England, it’s the prospect of losing 3 games out of 5 after losing 2 all of last season.
  • There will be a score in the first 7m30s of the first quarter. Bill Belichick and his coaching staff were soundly beaten last week, and we have no doubt that it will light a fire under their butts. Look for the scripted first 20 plays – on both defense and offense – to work like magic in Tampa.
  • The Patriots to score the longest touchdown yardage. With the Patriots struggling on offense, we believe that Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Josh McDaniels are going to reach into their bag of tricks and use their downfield passing game to take the pressure off their D. Look for a long TD.

In addition to the wagers above that we will get to watch unfold live, we would also direct your attention to the following future bets, that we feel may also hold value:

  • New England Patriots to win the AFC Championship, Super Bowl. With Tom Brady playing excellent football and Bill Belichick and the coaching staff still intact, there is no reason to believe that the defense won’t round into shape. Snatch up the odds at their highest value.
  • Jameis Winston to win MVP. No one can deny that the turnaround in Tampa has been dramatic. Someone deserves to get the credit, and if the Buccaneers are able to win 10+ games and make the playoffs, in a season marred by weather, Jameis might be the one who gets it.
  • Patriots to go under for total wins this season. If you can still find a line offering 12.5 wins (the opening odds this offseason for the Patriots’ win total), take the under. But consider taking the under even if the total is lower. Two losses (or potentially three) over five games is significant.

For veteran gamblers, it’s not enough to simply watch the games. As you tune into this Thursday Night Football matchup, make sure you’re keeping an eye out for the possibility that the future bets above could pay out.

Summary: Best Bets

In summary, every single season in the National Football League is fraught with surprises that no one could have seen coming. This is part of what makes the league so darn fun! This season, the fact that the defending Super Bowl champions have, by all accounts, the worst defense in the league through four games is quite a surprise.

While we are not so sure that this trend reverses itself in Week 5, we do think that the Patriots win nonetheless. We foresee the mental advantage of coming off of a loss being enough to overcome the Buccaneers’ home field advantage. We think that the Patriots’ offense will be good enough to win against the spread, and their defense will be bad enough to allow enough points to push the over.

In order to profit off of this view of the game, here are our best bets:

  • Patriots -240 moneyline
  • Patriots -5.5 against the spread (-110)
  • The total score to go over 54 (-110)
  • Tom Brady to go over his posted total for touchdowns
  • There will be a score in the first 7m30s of the first quarter
  • The Patriots to score the longest touchdown yardage

This offseason, no one would have likely predicted that the Patriots’ defense would be allowing 3+ touchdowns in Week 5 when the unit ended up with the #1 scoring defense in the entire league last season at 15.6 points per game. But we’re predicting it now. The league is full of surprises, and it will be exciting to watch this one unfold on Thursday night.

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