Patriots vs. Bucs Odds, Picks, Predictions: Belichick vs. Brady — Who Covers Sunday Night Football Spread?
Getty Images. Pictured: Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, Bucs QB Tom Brady
- Most bets are on Tom Brady to cover the spread on Sunday Night Football, but Bill Belichick is the one worth backing -- at least at +7.
- After comparing the Patriots vs. Bucs odds to his own betting model predictions, our expert breaks down why New England is the pick to bet.
- Find the Patriots vs. Bucs spread and over/under below, as well as cases for betting on either team, before our expert outlines his ultimate conclusion.
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Over the past two decades, betting Tom Brady and Bill Belichick off a loss has been one of the best against the spread (ATS) picks in the NFL.
Well, that’s what we have on Sunday Night Football.
- Belichick off a loss: 45-20 (69.2%) ATS
- Tom Brady off a loss: 41-14 (74.5%) ATS
Well, the problem is they are on different sidelines this weekend.
After pulling out two tight games that were close in the fourth quarter, the Bucs lost to the Rams last week in fairly convincing fashion. Meanwhile, the Patriots lost at home to the Saints after splitting the first two games against AFC East opponents in the Jets and Dolphins.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, Brady will make his first return to Foxboro since leaving for Tampa Bay in one of the most highly-anticipated regular-season matchups of the 2021 NFL season.
Something has to give.
Tampa Bay’s Defense Faces Question Marks
We pretty much know who the Bucs are with the Super Bowl champs returning every single starter from that title-winning team — they possess one of the most dynamic offenses in the league, led by an extremely underrated offensive line, the ageless Brady and an explosive wide receiver corps.
Tampa Bay will likely be missing a few pieces this week as receiving back Gio Bernard and former Patriot Rob Gronkowski will not play While the Bucs do have strong depth at the tight end position, they may miss Gronk in the red zone, where he and Brady just have unmatched chemistry.
Defensively, coordinator Todd Bowles’ 3-4 base defense is once again very stingy against the run. Teams are beginning to realize you shouldn’t even try to run against this Tampa Bay front. However, the pass defense has struggled to start the season as a result of injuries in the secondary and a pass rush that just isn’t getting home as often (32nd in Adjusted Sack Rate), in part due to teams getting rid of the ball quicker with short passes.
Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting won’t play again this weekend. That caused the Bucs to go out and sign Richard Sherman, who will apparently be active. It remains to be seen how much he can contribute in a new scheme right off the bat.
New England Relies on Improved Defense
The Patriots are hoping to rely on a strong ground game and one of the NFL’s best offensive lines to help out quarterback Mac Jones in his rookie campaign. But while New England did go out in the offseason and spend some money to upgrade their weapons at tight end and receiver, the unit still lacks explosiveness.
This is a team that wants to win low-scoring games with a ball-control offense, dominant special teams and much-improved defense that upgraded significantly in the free agent market.
Last season, the Patriots defense really struggled because injuries and opt-outs really left that cupboard bare. Cornerback Stephen Gilmore remains sidelined, but this is still a top-10 secondary that without him that ranks fourth in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA.
The front seven is significantly better from a talent standpoint, but they have struggled to defend the run so far, ranking 28th in DVOA.
The Case for Betting the Bucs
It’s quite a simple case.
Jones and the Patriots offense (26th in DVOA) simply can’t keep up with Brady and this Bucs offense (fifth). Plus, it’s just not a great matchup with a run-heavy New England offense facing one of the stingiest run defenses in the NFL.
The Patriots will also miss running back James White, who served as a security blanket for Jones in passing situations.
The Bucs do have issues in the secondary, but the Patriots don’t have the weapons to consistently exploit those current areas of weakness. And yes, the Patriots secondary has been good, but they’ve faced Jameis Winston, Zach Wilson and Tua Tagovailoa so far — not exactly a murderer’s row of passing offenses.
Brady vs. a rookie quarterback? Easy decision.
The Case for Betting the Patriots
These Patriots might actually be undervalued after looking so bad last week to drop to 1-2.
That said, they outplayed the Dolphins in the opener in a one-point loss thanks to two fumbles (one of which was controversial). Then last week against the Saints, New England actually out-gained New Orleans and averaged more yards per play, but the Patriots were once again doomed by turnovers (including a pick-six off a tipped pass) and a prayer Winston threw up that resulted in a touchdown.
New England could have easily come into this game with a 3-0 record.
Plus, catching a touchdown or more at home in the NFL is always an intriguing proposition — just take a look at last season, when the 2-5 Patriots won outright as 7-point underdogs in primetime against the 6-2 Ravens.
You also have to trust Belichick will have some sort of game plan cooked up to slow down and potentially confuse Brady and these receivers. We’ve seen some former New England assistants come up with effective game plans when facing Brady, including Titans head coach Mike Vrabel in the playoffs and even Matt Patricia when his Lions beat the Patriots outright in primetime as touchdown underdogs.
Also, don’t be surprised if the Patriots make a big play or two on special teams, where they should own a substantial edge as they do against most teams.
Finally, while Brady has been dominant ATS in his career off a loss, he is only 10-11 ATS in this situation as a favorite of seven or more points.
From a pure power-ratings perspective, I do see slight value in the number for the Patriots at home, even with diminished home-field advantage ratings across the league.
If I also had to guess how it plays out, I assume Belichick will indeed have some nuanced looks to confuse Brady early on and/or simply dare the Bucs to run the ball against light boxes in a bend-don’t-break defense that will rely on getting stops in the red zone.
I also assume the offense will play much slower to keep Brady on the sidelines.
Can Jones and an underwhelming wide receiver group exploit the undermanned Bucs secondary with an efficient short passing attack? Brady is getting all of the publicity here, and rightfully so, but I actually think that’s the key to the game.
I’m siding with the Pats +7, which you can find across the market as of writing (shop for the best line here), but it’s a small wager and I certainly wouldn’t go below a touchdown.
From an over/under perspective, it’s a pretty fair number. But if the Patriots can slow the game down and force the Bucs to run it while confusing Brady, that would not only likely lead to a New England cover but also be very conducive to an under play.
Pick: Patriots +7 or better (small wager)