Patriots are down, but they’ll be back

As tempting as it might be to bury Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, leave the shovel in the garage, and don’t pull a hamstring jumping to conclusions.

The Patriots are down now, and the betting public’s love affair with them is done. But that’s this week. What we know about the NFL is that the stories can change dramatically next week.

Brady butted heads with a rookie quarterback Sunday, and it was not Brady taking a knee to run out the clock. Brady had a passer rating of 53.1 and needed a seeing-eye dog to find the end zone.

The rookie, Mark Sanchez, tossed a touchdown pass and followed the lead of his defense as the New York Jets backed up their trash talk and upset the Patriots, 16-9.

“The Patriots are not the same. They’re not scoring 35, 40 points a game and blowing everybody out,” Wynn Las Vegas sports book director John Avello said. “I don’t know if Brady looks like he’s confident.

“But looking ahead, and nobody’s got a crystal ball, but at some point it’s going to come together for that team. You can’t form opinions too early on teams. It’s a long season. The first two weeks don’t mean that much.”

Less than two years ago, the Patriots were so dominant, they were double-digit favorites every week and most bettors were afraid to take 20 points with the underdog. That fear factor is gone, and justly so.

The betting public wised up and ganged up against New England in Week 2. The Patriots opened as 61/2-point favorites over the Jets, and the line dropped to 3 at several books by kickoff.

If not for a lucky season-opening victory over Buffalo, the Super Bowl favorites could be 0-2. But Patriots coach Bill Belichick did not turn into Norv Turner overnight. Belichick needs time to rebuild a defense that lost six starters from last year.

Brady was without reliable receiver Wes Welker against the Jets, and his long-distance relationship with Randy Moss was missing. But the Patriots eventually will be back, and at some point the value in betting on them will return.

The Jets were one of eight underdogs to win outright Sunday. Cincinnati pulled the biggest upset — one week after it suffered a stunning loss — by beating the Green Bay Packers 31-24 as 8-point underdogs.

Arizona, Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Oakland and the New York Giants also won as ‘dogs. Normally cluster upsets mean positive results for the books, but that was not the case this time because more bettors sided with the Cardinals, Raiders and Ravens, in addition to the Jets and Bengals.

“I think it was just good handicapping by the players,” Avello said.

The Ravens were 3-point underdogs to San Diego most of the week, but the line closed pick’em and Chargers minus-1. San Diego, dealing with the absence of running back LaDainian Tomlinson among other injuries, fell 31-26 in a rare home defeat.

The incompetence of Turner also hurt the Chargers. With San Diego facing third-and-goal at the Baltimore 5 with 10 seconds left in the first half, Turner dubiously opted for a field-goal attempt instead of letting Philip Rivers take another shot at the end zone.

“I disagreed with that totally. I didn’t understand it at all,” Avello said. “That’s why it’s difficult for San Diego to win with that coach.”

Baltimore, led by second-year quarterback Joe Flacco, moved to 2-0 straight up and against the spread. The Atlanta Falcons and Matt Ryan are also perfect.

“Those two teams are dangerous,” Avello said. “The team I’m really impressed with is the Ravens, because their offense can score points when needed and their defense can really tighten up the wrench.”

Throw the New Orleans Saints into the group of elite. Drew Brees’ three touchdown passes lifted the Saints to a 48-22 win at Philadelphia. Bettors marched to support the Saints, who opened as 1-point underdogs at the Wynn book and closed as 3-point favorites.

“The Saints game was a disaster,” Avello said.

Three teams that appear hopeless, Avello said, are Cleveland, St. Louis and Tampa Bay.

There are still reasons for optimism with the Patriots, who opened as 5-point home favorites over the Falcons in Week 3. The price to buy Brady and Belichick is getting cheap.

Contact Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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