New England Patriots vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Line: Tampa Bay -7
Where: Gillette Stadium
When: Sunday, 10/3 at 8:20 p.m. ET
It’s hard to think of a regular season NFL game that has received as much hype as Sunday night’s contest between New England and Tampa Bay.
That’s what happens when a player like Tom Brady makes the return to his old stomping grounds. Brady, who won six titles with former head coach Bill Belichick in New England, has not faced his former team since leaving a year ago.
The seven-time Super Bowl champ returns to Gillette Stadium as a 7-point favorite. Tampa Bay opened as low as a 3.5-point favorite at some shops, but the betting action has pushed that line up to a touchdown. Oddsmakers opened the total at 48.5 and it has ticked up to 49.5.
The Buccaneers opened the season with wins over Dallas and Atlanta at home, but they proceeded to lose a 34-24 contest on the road against the Rams last week. They took a 10-game winning streak to Los Angeles—Matthew Stafford’s four touchdown passes were too much to overcome.
Brady joined Drew Brees as the only quarterbacks to throw for more than 80,000 career yards, totaling 432 yards and a touchdown on 41 completions. Mike Evans caught eight passes for 106 yards.
Evans is currently second on the team in receiving behind wide receiver Chris Godwin, who has caught 19 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has 16 grabs for 184 yards, but he is listed as ‘doubtful’ for this game with an injury to his ribs.
While Brady and the offense have been lighting up the scoreboard, Tampa Bay’s defense has struggled. The Buccaneers rank No. 27 in the NFL, allowing 402.0 yards per game. They have gone ‘over’ the betting total in all three of their games this season.
Fortunately for Tampa Bay, it is going to face a New England offense that has failed to crack 20 points in two of its first three games. The Patriots opened the year with a 17-16 loss to Miami before bouncing back with a 25-6 blowout against the Jets. They were unable to build on that win, losing to New Orleans by 15 points last week.
Rookie quarterback Mac Jones performed like…well, a rookie…in the 28-13 loss. Jones completed 30 of 51 attempts for 270 yards, but he also threw three interceptions. He has completed 67.5 percent of his attempts for 737 yards overall this year—he had not thrown a pick in his first two games.
Damien Harris leads the rushing attack with 45 carries for 176 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers has been Jones’ top target, catching 19 passes for 176 yards. Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor and Hunter Henry are all over 100 total receiving yards as well.
The most captivating matchup in this game is Tampa Bay’s offense (No. 8) vs. New England’s defense (No. 5). Belichick’s team has now gone ‘under’ the total in nine of their last 11 games.
Tampa Bay has covered the spread in eight of its last 12 games, while New England is 2-5 ATS in its last seven outings. The Patriots have gone ‘under’ in six of their last eight home games.
The pick: New England +7
There are several factors keeping me completely away from Tampa Bay on Sunday night. The most important one is that this line opened at 3.5 some places, so there is no chance I would play the Buccaneers at -7. Public bettors are going to be all over Brady in this spot. He might come out and amaze everyone once again, but laying seven points on the road against a tough defense is not something I want to do. Gronkowski is likely going to miss this game, taking away one of Brady’s top targets. Jones is coming off a rough outing, but he played in plenty of big games at Alabama and I expect him to clean things up against a struggling defense.