The betting market involving the New England Patriots is barely budging despite the season-ending knee injury to Tom Brady’s top receiver Julian Edelman. Here’s why.
Patriots Nation collectively groaned when leading wide receiver Julian Edelman hobbled off the field with a torn ACL in New England’s 30-28 preseason win over the Lions on Aug. 25. The 31-year-old was not only the team’s top wideout in 2016, but also a Super Bowl LI hero. Edelman, who reeled in 1,106 receiving yards and 3 TDs on 98 receptions last season, made a miraculous finger-tip grab with the score 28-9 in the fourth quarter to sustain a historic come-from-behind victory over the Atlanta Falcons (34-28 in OT). One would think his loss would affect New England’s Super Bowl chances for this season significantly. Nope. The odds are barely budging.
Prior to Edleman’s injury, online sportsbook BetOnline dangled New England at +275 to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the second year in a row. Oddsmakers adjusted the number to +350 immediately following the mishap. The number has climbed slightly to +365 less than 48 hours from the Week 1 opener, but it remains the shortest preseason odds for a Super Bowl future bet since New England kicked off the 2008 regular season at +350 odds. One can back the Pats at a bargain price of +380 over at 5Dimes.
The wager Edelman’s injury will most likely affect is the Patriots' season win total. The 'over/under' is at 12.5 games, but only witnessed an adjustment in juice from o-130 to o+105 immediately following the news. It’s since fallen slightly to o-103 in the past 10 days. Most modelers estimate Edelman’s individual game value at 1-2 points to the spread. Over the course of the season, this would likely result in an extra loss for the Pats.
The betting market, however, is confident head coach Bill Belichick will adjust accordingly and overcome the odds. Heck, he did last year. Canton-bound quarterback Tom Brady missed the first 4 games to suspension (Deflategate) and star tight end Rob Gronkowski sat out 8-plus games, including the playoffs, due to a bad back.
Perhaps the most surprising number in all this is the Patriots' line in the season opener. They are 8.5- to 9-point home favorites over the Chiefs for Thursday night, not budging despite Edelman’s injury. Advanced lines back in April showed New England as low as -7 chalk. If there is a game where the star receiver’s absence will likely have the biggest impact, it’s the first one, with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel forced to adjust his playbook and explore alternate targets. Will New England’s offense be fine-tuned in time?
The consensus among NFL analysts is that the Pats will fill the void via a group effort. Wideouts Brandin Cooks, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell are a stellar cast of targets. In addition, New England traded third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for speedy receiver Phillip Dorsett a few days ago. Dorsett, a big-play threat, can line up wide or in the slot. He’ll have to learn the system and generate a rhythm and repertoire with Brady before making an immediate impact.
Edelman is Brady’s clear check-down option. He tallied 105 short-pass targets last season, along with 16 screens and 46 looks down the field. Gronkowski will likely pick up some of the slack underneath, but look for running backs Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead to see an increase in short passing production. Whether they help the Pats win and outperform the betting market is yet to be determined. Look at these numbers when Edelman put in strong efforts: New England is 24-8 ATS when Edelman accrues over 80 receiving yards in a contest and 17-6-1 ATS when pulling in a touchdown pass.
Some things you can’t put a number on, however, are all the intangibles Edelman offers. The fan favorite is an emotional leader on and off the field. Mentally and physically, he is tough-as-nails, and the NFL’s ultimate gamer. Edelman undoubtedly inspires teammates in the huddle, after pressers, and in the locker room. How much this affects the Pats is yet to be determined.