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The Patriots and the Spread, Part I

Since 2001, the Patriots have been favored to win in a whopping 79% of all games, including postseason (giving half-credit as a favorite in games where the spread is zero). The Steelers are second at 73%, the Packers and Colts are next at 69%, the Eagles are at 68%, the Broncos at 67%, and the Saints at 61% are the only other team over 60%. In other words, the Patriots have been in a class by themselves when it comes to being favored.

But even that kind of underrates New England. The Patriots weren’t favored in any of the first 8 games of the 2001 season; the team was only favored in one of its first 12 games, at which point in time New England had a 7-5 record (and an 8-4 mark against the spread). There have also been 19 games since 2001 where Tom Brady was not the starting quarterback, and the Patriots were underdogs in 4 of those games (and a pick’em in a fifth). And there were meaningless week 17 games in 2006 and 2009 that the Patriots were underdogs because they were projected to rest their starters.

The graph below shows how many points the Patriots were expected to win in each game, regular and post-season, since 2001. I have included as red dots games not started by Brady or during meaningless week 17 games:

The last 33 times the Patriots have taken the field with Tom Brady as starter, the Patriots have been favored. That streak should continue for awhile into 2017, too. The last time a Brady-led Patriots team was not favored was in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks, where the spread was even. The last time the Pats were underdogs with Brady? Back in November 2014, in a game against the Packers.

It wasn’t always like this, but things really changed in 2007. Over the last ten years,1 Brady’s Patriots have been underdogs just 16 times, saw an even line twice, and been favored 142 times. Since 2007, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski has connected on 306 of his 347 regular and postseason field goal attempts, for an 88.2% success rate. Meanwhile, Brady’s Patriots have been favored to win 89.4% of their games. That’s remarkable, and it’s been this way for a decade.

  1. Ignoring the meaningless week 17 game against Houston in 2009. []
  • Tom

    This is quite remarkable…for regular season games, they’ve been favored by 5 points on average, 7 at home and 3 on the road! Only the Steelers come close to that road spread, they’ve been favored by an average of 1 point since 2001.

    I’ve been listening to Chad Millman’s “Behind the Bets” podcast with Bob Scucci for the past few years, and your post mirrors what I hear them say a lot – the Steelers and Packers are usually favored in games, the reason being that there’s just a lot of public support for those teams (besides the fact that they are generally “good”). They also say things like “you don’t get rich betting against the Patriots”, which makes sense.

    This is an area I’m really interested in, I’ve got a lot more comments, but I’ll hold off until Part II!