PATRIOTS (2-2) AT BUCS (2-1), 8:30 p.m.
TV: Ch. 2, NFL; Radio: WCBS (880)
Patriots by 5; O/U: 55.5
Stop us if you’ve heard this scenario before: The Patriots, coming off a loss at home in which they were favored by nine points, look to rebound on the road against an NFC South team.
Yep, New England finds itself in the exact situation as it did in Week 2, when it regrouped after the Chiefs loss and won big at New Orleans. Now, after a 33-30 home loss to the Panthers, Bill Belichick’s team — most notably, the defense — tries to right the ship in front of the Bucs’ pirate ship.
Quick aside: This is the 64th game of the season, and it’s been the most difficult one to dissect. My first thought was Patriots, off a bad loss, it’s a no-doubter. But we pick games against the spread (ATS), and this line is a tricky one. It opened at Patriots -4 and the betting public — as is always the case with the Pats — jumped all over them. Are the Pats still being overvalued because they’re the defending champs? Last season, they went 13-3 ATS, but this season they’re 1-3.
Something’s just not right with the defense. In three games, the Pats have allowed 42, 33 and 33 points. They have the NFL’s worst defense, allowing 456.8 yards per game, including an NFL-high 324 passing yards. The Bucs’ strong point is their passing game, so expect Jameis Winston (4 TDs, no INTs and 2-0 at home) to have success throwing to Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson.
Pats CB Stephon Gilmore has struggled, and the Bucs will target him. The Bucs’ pass defense allows the second-most yards at 315.7, so expect Tom Brady (NFL-high 1,399 yards with 10 TDs and no INTs) to do his thing, too, as this game easily goes over.
This game is all about the Pats secondary, though. Will it be able to make stops? Will it continue to be done in by penalties? That’s too many question marks to lay nearly a touchdown on the road, especially on a short week. Most importantly, this line suggests that if the game were played in Foxborough, the Bucs would be a double-digit underdog. Really? In three similar spots to that this season, the Pats are 1-2 and 0-3 ATS. That’s why five points are just too many to pass up.
The pick: Bucs
Bob Glauber: Patriots
Tom Rock: Bucs
Calvin Watkins: Patriots