Our look at the Highest Scoring Team special continues with the New England Patriots, who are tied as second favorites with Denver on the NFL odds board at bet365.
The New England Partiots have been known to carry some chalk in their day. That's our best explanation for why New England is tied for second place at +550 on the Highest Scoring Team special over at bet365. We've already looked at the team the Patriots are tied with, the Denver Broncos. And we've taken a gander at the +450 favorites, the Green Bay Packers. Now let's see if there's some football-specific reason why the Pats might be a worthwhile NFL pick here.
New England certainly isn't lacking for offense. This team finished fourth overall in scoring last year with 468 points; as recently as 2012, the Patriots were No. 1 in scoring at 557 points. They also led the league in 2007 (589 points) and 2010 (518 points), all under the aegis of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.
Which is where things start breaking down for 2015. As you're no doubt already aware, Brady has been suspended for the first four games of the regular season, taking the fall for Deflategate. That suspension is under appeal, and while some are calling for Brady's complete exoneration, Mark Maske at the Washington Post reported Thursday that there is “considerable” support around the league for keeping Brady's punishment as-is.
Come Back, Shane
We've seen before that the Patriots can get by just fine without their 10-time Pro Bowl quarterback. In 2008, when Brady tore up his left knee in the season opener and was replaced by Matt Cassel, New England still went 11-5 (9-7 ATS). However, they “only” scored 410 points in doing so, although that was still good enough for second in the AFC and eighth overall.
Assuming Brady's suspension isn't overturned, back-up Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to start the first four games for New England. We're big on the idea of adding the Patriots to your single-game NFL picks while Garoppolo is under center; he performed reasonably well in limited action last year as a rookie, and was lights-out during the preseason. But we expect New England to suffer enough of a dip in scoring during those first four games to take them out of the running for Highest Scoring Team.
Even if Brady ends up starting all 16 games, the Patriots could still take a step back in the scoring department. They've lost running backs Shane Vereen (4.1 yards per carry, 52 catches) and Stevan Ridley (3.6 yards per carry) from the team that finished sixth in the league last year in offensive efficiency, according to the numbers at Football Outsiders. Picking up Travaris Cadet (32 yards on 10 carries, 38 catches) from the New Orleans Saints might help, but New England also focused on defense at the 2015 NFL Draft, taking defenders with each of its first four picks. We'll take a pass on the Patriots, thank you kindly.