Facing your fears is a big part of life. Perhaps the most challenging part.
Whether those fears are the anxiety of losing your first tooth, butterflies before a basketball tryout, or the uncertainty of a big career move: it takes serious marbles to move ahead.
In the NFL, there may be no greater fear than standing across the field from Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots. For nearly two decades, the Patriots have served as league’s bench mark in excellence but also as its boogeyman. Teams don’t want to play New England.
The same can be said for the Patriots’ place in the sports betting community. New England is a collective 196-133-8 against the spread since the dawn of this dynasty during the 2001 season. That’s an incredible 59.57 percent ATS win rate. If you blindly bet $100 on the Pats at the standard -110 vig in each of those games (regular season and playoffs), you’d be up $4,518. In short, bettors don’t want to wager against New England.
Well, we’re facing that very fear in Week 11 and thankfully the other side of this bet includes a team that doesn't fear big bad Bill and the defending Super Bowl champs. The Philadelphia Eagles, who infamously upset the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, are getting 3.5 points at home to New England on Sunday.
The media is hyping up this Big Game rematch as the Patriots’ revenge spot, bringing plenty of sound and fury to Lincoln Financial Field. New England is also coming off a bye in Week 10 and a loss (versus Baltimore in Week 9) – two situations which have produced 63 and 71 percent ATS winners for football bettors, respectively. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
But those numbers and the ghost stories they conjure up are from the past. This year’s version of the Patriots, while still a very good team, is not that great.
The schedule hasn’t pushed back much (ranked weakest in the NFL) but when it has, the Patriots have failed to cover (at Buffalo and at Baltimore). The offense, led by Brady, isn’t what it used to be and sits 11th in offensive DVOA at FootballOutsiders – just two spots ahead of the Eagles.
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The defense is the shining star of the franchise in 2019, but that cupcake sked has put it against the worst of the worst in terms of offensive production. New England has collected the souls of the 24th, 25th, 27th, 28th, 29th, 31st, and 32nd-ranked offenses by DVOA. And when it finally played a quality scoring attack, it buckled for 30 points in a loss to the Ravens (third in offensive DVOA).
Philadelphia doesn’t present the same wrinkles as Baltimore and wild-card QB Lamar Jackson, but the Eagles can run the ball. They’re on a two-game winning streak and also off a bye, having rumbled for a combined total of 364 rushing yards on the Bills and Bears. New England is susceptible to the ground game, ranked 26th in yards allowed per carry at 4.7 on the season, and allowed 135 run yards (32:40 TOP) to Buffalo and 210 run yards (37:01 TOP) to Baltimore. Philadelphia has dominated the football in recent outings with an average time of possesion of 34:37 over its last three games - the highest TOP in the NFL during that span.
This line opened 3.5 and has stayed 3.5 at most books throughout the week despite that revenge angle getting heavy rotation as well as all the Patriots’ fearsome ATS trends being thrown around. Yet, despite 63 percent of early bets on the favorite, sportsbooks are standing pat.
The Eagles don’t fear the Patriots. And neither do I.
PICK: Philadelphia +3.5
DENVER BRONCOS AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS (-10.5, 40)
The Vikings tossed their horned helmets into the ring when it comes to Super Bowl contenders with a good-looking win at Dallas last Sunday night. It was the fifth win in the last six games and put a rough stretch of schedule to bed which forced Minnesota on the road for five of seven contests going back to Week 4.
The Vikes ease back into U.S. Bank Stadium for a home stand against the Denver Broncos Sunday before a much-needed bye in Week 12. Minnesota opened as low as -9 and has been bet up to -10.5 – jumping over the key number with 61 percent of early tickets written on the favorite.
Denver is back at it following a Week 10 bye which followed a victory over Cleveland in Week 9. The Broncos have been a sneaky good bet with a 4-1 ATS mark over their last five games, winning three of those matchups outright.
This defense is getting back to what it does best after a soft launch to the 2019 schedule. Outside of a 30-6 blowout loss to Kansas City in a Thursday Week 7 outing, Denver has limited four of those five opponents to 19 points or less. The run stop has been notably improved, giving up only 3.4 yards per carry to foes over the last three contests – something that will come in handy versus the Vikings’ ground game.
Promoted backup Brandon Allen looked solid in his first start in Week 9 and wasn’t afraid to make big throws when called upon. The bye week gave the team extra time to get him reps with first teamers and develop a playbook that fits his skill set. Minnesota has had trouble defending the pass and has already lost to second-stringers Chase Daniel and Matt Moore.
Denver’s plan of attack is to contain with its defense and conserve with its offense. And given this low total and massive spread, the best bet is with the Broncos.
PICK: Denver +10.5
The Chargers find themselves away from home for the fourth time in the last five games when they go to Mexico City to take on the Chiefs. But if you know anything about their "home", (looks up name…) Dignity Health Sports Park, that’s a good thing.
The Bolts will not only be battling Kansas City but the altitude in Mexico City, which sits 7,350 feet above sea level. Los Angeles may have the advantage heading into Monday’s game, having enjoyed a mini bye after playing last Thursday and taking its training wayyyyyyyy up to Colorado Springs Air Force base which sits at 6,621 feet.
While the benefits of this move to the thin air may be more psychological than scientific, the Chargers are in a good spot to take advantage of a stumbling Chiefs squad. Kansas City has just two wins in its last six games – both coming with Patrick Mahomes on the sidelines (injured early vs. Denver) – with the offense unable to make up for a dismal defense allowing 30 points against during this skid.
The Chargers could also benefit from a slick surface at Estadio Azteca slowing down the speedy Chiefs. Last year’s game in Mexico City was cancelled and moved due to poor field conditions. The NFL didn’t take any chances this time and kept close tabs on the surface integrity heading into Week 11 (with additional drainage channels added).That said, the forecast for Mexico City is spattered with rain the next few days, including Monday night, and the soft soccer-style pitch could be shredded by the second half. Add to that, the energy-sapping thin air and the final 30 minutes of this game could be ugly.
I like the brawnier Bolts to keep it closer than the four points Monday night.
PICK: L.A. Chargers +4
Week 10: 3-0 ATS
Season to date: 18-12 ATS