Assessing Patriots' NFL Betting Value in 2015

Sterling Xie

Thursday, September 3, 2015 11:41 PM GMT

Because of their annual consistency, the Patriots are rarely a favorable straight-up bet on NFL futures propositions. However, as the solid end of a parlay or teaser, the Patriots have typically been a reliable bedrock for bettors to build multi-team or game tickets and cash in big winnings.

But every season sees a contender unexpectedly stumble from the top tier, and though they’ve been virtually invulnerable the past 15 years, New England appears more vulnerable than it’s been for most of that stretch. Tom Brady’s potential four-game suspension, which he won't serve following an endless string of appeals, was the most obvious uncertainty surrounding the Pats’ season. Even if we assume Brady’s availability for all 16 games, though, New England faces other issues after an offseason marked by personnel defections and preseason injuries. While the Pats are unlikely to completely implode, warning signs suggest they could be less consistent week-to-week then they’ve been the past five seasons, during which time they’ve won at least 12 games and earned a first-round bye.

Last year’s Super Bowl-winning squad enjoyed plenty of talent on its veteran-laden defense, but few teams lost as much defensively as the Patriots this offseason. The New England Patriots return just a shade over 68 percent of its defensive snaps from last year, the 25th-ranked retention rate on that side of the ball. As most fans will know after seeing the Pats lose their top three corners, the secondary was hit hardest. New England retained an even lower percentage of snaps from its defensive backs, both on a percentage and gross basis:

 

Most Snaps Lost from DBs in Offseason

Rank

Team

Snaps Lost

% Snaps

32.

Eagles

3411

39.8%

31.

Giants

2826

44.2%

30.

Redskins

2741

50.2%

29.

Texans

2342

52.8%

28.

Patriots

2312

57.2%

 

But unlike teams with poor secondary personnel fits like Philadelphia and Washington, the Patriots lost players of real value to their championship roster. According to Football Outsiders, the Pats suffered the most “impactful” defensive losses from 2014 based on how much value those players provided over replacement. In plain English, no team, not even the much-beleaguered San Francisco 49ers, is losing more defensive talent from 2014 than the Patriots.

Granted, the Pats have reached the cusp of Super Bowl championships with subpar defenses, like they did in 2011 when they reached Super Bowl XLVI despite finishing with the 30th ranked defense by DVOA. Still, New England has also had a troubling habit of posting a win-loss record in excess of its actual performance. Since 2010, the Patriots have gone 12-4 or better every season. However, based on Pythagorean wins, which projects a teams win total based on its point differential, the Pats have overperformed their record in four of those five seasons. The reason for that is New England’s unusual success in close games.  Including the postseason, the Patriots have garnered a 26-15 record in one-score games since 2010, good for a .634 winning percentage that tops the league during that timeframe. But while the Pats have remained above the curve in that time, one-score record doesn’t typically show much year-to-year correlation, which makes sense when considering the level of variance inherent in any close game.

So despite whatever “aura” the Patriots have created for themselves in the past decade-and-a-half, the numbers suggest a long-overdue regression to the mean. For the Patriots to live up to any of their current lines on futures props, however, they’ll need to continue to remain above the bell curve. Indeed, bettors are (understandably) treating the Patriots like top-tier Super Bowl contenders, making them an unfavorable value on virtually every prop. At 5Dimes, New England possesses the third-shortest NFL odds to win the Super Bowl (+1000), the second-shortest to win the AFC (+390) and sits as an overwhelming -160 favorite to win the AFC East against improved divisional competition.

But that still doesn’t answer the pressing question posed at the top of this article: Can bettors rely on the Patriots to perform week to week? For that, we likely won’t have a definitive answer until midseason, especially if Brady does serve some sort of suspension to start the year. At first glance, though, the Pats do have an unfavorable road slate for 2015, which includes six games against teams that finished .500 or better in 2014. New England’s season win line total sits at just 10 wins at 5Dimes, but the +135 under bet might be enticing for your NFL picks, especially if you want to bank on Brady missing games. Only four teams have an over-under win total with a higher line in either direction, making New England a potential value on that prop.

Betting against the Patriots feels like a case of gambler’s fallacy, as talent and superior coaching has typically trumped whatever the numbers suggest should happen to New England. But with the turnover and uncertainty surrounding the typically stable organization, now could be a time to take the bet on the Patriots taking a step back while the public still sees regression in Foxborough as unfathomable.