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Patriots 2018 win total: 11 (over -145, under +125)
Patriots 2017 record: 13-3
Key offseason acquisitions: RB Jeremy Hill, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, TE Troy Niklas, OT Trent Brown, OT Matt Tobin, DE Adrian Clayborn, DT Danny Shelton, CB Jason McCourty
Key offseason departures: RB Dion Lewis, WR Brandin Cooks, WR Danny Amendola, TE Martellus Bennett, OT Nate Solder, OT Cameron Fleming, CB Malcolm Butler, DT Ricky Jean Francois, DC Matt Patricia
Five things to keep in mind before betting the Patriots’ win total
1. For all the drama surrounding the Patriots this past offseason, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still steering the ship in New England. The 41-year-old quarterback continues to look unstoppable against opposing defenses and Father Time, while Belichick is still the best coach in the league by a good measure. Several dependable weapons in the passing game are gone—Danny Amendola, Brandin Cooks, Dion Lewis and Martellus Bennett all left this offseason—and favorite target Julian Edelman is suspended for four games. Yet Brady can turn an underwhelming receiving corps into a potent one, and new addition Cordarrelle Patterson could have a boost in production playing with a top-tier signal-caller. Chris Hogan emerged as one of New England’s top go-to options through the air last season before suffering a shoulder injury. In the Super Bowl against the Eagles, Hogan posted a 6-128-1 line and showed his penchant for getting open consistently.
2. Dion Lewis signing with the Titans will be a huge loss in all facets of this offense. Lewis recorded a 73.2 in Pro Football Focus’ elusive rating (73.2) in 2017, which was tops among all running backs. Per PFF, he also ranked third in yards after contact per attempt (3.17) and was tied for fifth in forced missed tackles on rushing attempts (42). Among qualified players last season, Lewis’s 91.4% catch rate led the league and he had zero drops. Also, in pass protection, Lewis was one of four tailbacks to not allow any pressures (no hurries on his 35 blocking attempts).
Overall, Lewis graded out as PFF’s No. 2 running back last season. The Patriots will try to replace some of his production with rookie first-round pick Sony Michel. New England’s backfield will be a game of running back roulette with Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White and former Bengal Jeremy Hill all vying for snaps. Michel, Burkhead and White are all capable on the ground and through the air, but none of them will quite match Lewis’s all-around excellence.
3. Despite two major losses—Nate Solder signed with the Giants in free agency, and the Patriots’ other 2018 first-round pick Isaiah Wynn suffered a torn Achilles in the team’s preseason game against the Eagles and is out for the season—New England’s offensive line is shaping up to be quite solid. Belichick dealt a third-round pick to the Niners during the draft for offensive tackle Trent Brown, who will start at left tackle. Brown and Marcus Cannon form a solid duo at the bookends. Guard Shaq Mason is an excellent run blocker, and was just rewarded with a five-year, $50 million extension. Joe Thuney is the biggest question mark in the interior, but the third-year player has taken nearly every snap at left guard since the Patriots drafted him in 2016 and is one tough dude.
4. The Patriots defense gave up a league-high 32.0 points per game over the team’s first four 2017 matchups in the regular season, then surrendered a league-low 14.4 points per game over the ensuing 14 contests before the Super Bowl. The weak point of the defense, an inability to consistently generate pressure, finally caught up to the Patriots against the Eagles, as Nick Foles had plenty of time to carve the secondary. New England bolstered its pass rush by signing defensive end Adrian Clayborn—the former Falcon had more sacks in one game last season (six against the Cowboys) than any Patriot had besides Trey Flowers’s 6.5. Last year’s third-round pick Derek Rivers will compete for snaps along the defensive line after missing his entire rookie campaign with a torn ACL. The Patriots finished 25th in the league with a pressure rate of 32.4%, and that number will have to improve if they want to finish this campaign with the Lombardi Trophy in hand.
5. The Patriots did lose several key pieces this offseason, but it’s nearly impossible to envision any team in the AFC East remotely challenging them in 2018. The AFC as a whole is also much weaker than the NFC, another boost to New England’s schedule. The AFC East plays the NFC North this year, one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, but the Patriots get the North’s two best teams, the Vikings and Packers, at home. New England has been the most consistent team in all of sports since the turn of the millennium, and this won’t be the year that all changes. The Patriots have finished with 12 or more wins in eight straight seasons, making this Vegas win total of 11 slightly puzzling, even with the high juice. Back to the Brady and Belichick well we go.
PICK: OVER 11 Wins
Other NFL team betting previews: Jets, Vikings, Bills, Raiders, Cowboys, Texans, Broncos, 49ers, Steelers, Cardinals, Browns, Buccaneers, Bengals, Giants, Saints, Packers, Falcons, Chiefs, Bears, Chargers, Dolphins, Eagles, Seahawks