weather icon Cloudy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

NFL countdown: Patriots one of biggest question marks

This is the 19th in a series of 32 NFL team betting previews in 32 days leading up to the league’s Sept. 10 season opener. We’ll count down the teams from the lowest season win total to the highest.

For the first time in 20 years, the New England Patriots are one of the NFL’s biggest question marks.

The Patriots have won at least 10 games in an NFL-record 17 straight seasons and claimed 11 AFC East titles in a row and 17 of 19. But both streaks appear to be in jeopardy after six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady bolted for Tampa Bay and a league-high eight players opted out of the season.

New England’s season win total is 9 (under -140), and it’s the second choice to win the division (+160) behind the Buffalo Bills (-125).

“I can sit here and talk about the Patriots for two straight days and have no idea what I’m talking about,” Westgate sportsbook vice president of risk Ed Salmons said. “If you tell me they’ll win 10 or 11 games, I wouldn’t be surprised. Or if they go out and win five games, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s the most uncertain I’ve been of any team in years.

“When in doubt, I lean toward (coach Bill) Belichick because he always seems to find a way. But if you made me guess, I would guess they’ll underachieve and go under. But it’s not something I would bet on.”

When Brady signed with the Buccaneers, professional sports bettor Jeff Whitelaw bet the Patriots to go over 8½ wins. But Whitelaw changed his mind after key defensive starters Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung opted out, and he bet New England under 9½, a number still available on Circa’s alternate win totals.

“I’m high on the under now because they lost two of their best defensive players,” Whitelaw said. “Belichick will do his magic, but it’s going to be a little more difficult without Brady.”

The Patriots signed QB Cam Newton at a bargain price, but Whitelaw doesn’t expect much out of the 2015 NFL MVP.

“I don’t put much stock in Newton,” he said. “Even if he does well, he’s so injury prone that he doesn’t figure to make much of a difference.”

Sunset Station sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said it’s still too early to write off the Patriots.

“They play in a division where, outside of the Bills, I still think they’re better than the Jets and Dolphins right now,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure on the Bills. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Patriots still won the AFC East.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

Like and follow Vegas Nation