On his weekly radio show in Boston, Tom Brady’s spirits were low. The bearded quarterback, 37 and aging fast, tried to explain the New England Patriots’ problems. There is a lot of explaining to do.
Brady talked a lot, but he actually said little. The Patriots are not playing well, he said, and they need to play better. His simple comments turned into a big story, because the media works in sensational ways, and because he hinted at more complex issues.
It’s possible what ails the Patriots has been lingering for a long time and cannot be cured in a week.
New England coach Bill Belichick, when pressed on the subject, offered no answers. “We are on to Cincinnati,” Belichick said twice.
Belichick and Brady, the NFL’s most admired and trusted coach-quarterback combination for more than a decade, took a beating Monday in Kansas City. The scoreboard showed 41-14, but it was even worse than that. To some, it signaled the end of an era.
In the past, betting on the Patriots to bounce back from a loss was money in the bank. But we have no clue if that’s still true.
After four games, New England (2-2) has produced one impressive performance and three lousy ones. Brady has four touchdown passes and has been sacked nine times. The Patriots rank 29th in total offense, ahead of league laughingstocks Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Oakland.
The other side of the ball became a joke, too. The Chiefs triggered their rout by rolling up 303 yards in the first half, the most against a Belichick-coached defense.
But I’ll resist burying the Patriots unless the Bengals can dig the grave Sunday night. Cincinnati, 3-0 straight up and against the spread, has the statistical profile to be a 1-point road favorite over a struggling opponent. But it’s still Marvin Lewis against Belichick and Andy Dalton against Brady, and the better coach and quarterback are off a humiliating loss.
In the NFL, numbers sometimes lie and it’s more important to handicap situationally than statistically. A team that looked awful last week can look revitalized six or seven days later, so I’ll play the Patriots as home ’dogs.
Four more plays for Week 5 (home team in CAPS):
■ Rams (+7) over EAGLES: Still weakened by offensive line injuries, and in a bad spot after a physical game at San Francisco, Philadelphia is a risky proposition laying a touchdown. On top of that, quarterback Nick Foles is in a minor funk. St. Louis is a rested team off a bye. Rams coach Jeff Fisher went 7-1 ATS as a road ’dog in 2012.
■ Ravens (+3½) over COLTS: Andrew Luck is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league, but his team is full of question marks. How good is Indianapolis? The Colts are off blowout wins over Jacksonville and Tennessee, two of the league’s worst teams. Baltimore has been playing at a high level since Week 2. The Ravens are 8-3 ATS in their past 11 games as ’dogs.
■ BRONCOS (-7½) over Cardinals: After a loss and a bye, and with a 0-3 ATS mark, Denver is due to post a blowout. Arizona is short-handed on defense and going with Drew Stanton again at quarterback. Peyton Manning has all of his playmakers on the field, so look for the Broncos to put it all together in a double-digit win.
■ Chiefs (+6) over 49ERS: In an ideal spot last week, San Francisco made all sorts of mistakes and was lucky to escape with a 5-point victory over a Philadelphia team that was dead flat offensively. Kansas City has things going in the right direction. Alex Smith completed 20 of 26 passes against the Patriots, and the Chiefs’ running attack is potent with Jamaal Charles at full speed. The 49ers are not making anything look easy.
Last week: 2-2-1 against the spread
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.