Super Bowl 52: Will The New England Patriots Repeat?
Published on August 18, 2017
Predicting the champion of the National Football League is no easy task. Especially in the modern era, during which only 1 team (the 2004-05 Patriots) has successfully repeated as NFL champion since the turn of the century.
So it’s pretty rare to see sportsbooks offering betting lines on teams not to win the Super Bowl. But that’s exactly what Bookmaker is doing this year, offering a prop on whether or not the New England Patriots will win Super Bowl 52.
The ‘Yes’ on that proposition falls in line with the Pats’ Super Bowl futures at Bookmaker, paying +305. But the ‘No’ could also be worth considering since you only have to lay -400 on the potential of the Patriots being tripped up by any of the other 31 teams in the entire league.
Let’s look at some arguments why the Patriots will win Super Bowl 52 and why they won’t, then evaluate where the smart money is on this proposition.
The Patriots’ attack finished last season on absolute fire. They scored 30 points or more in 6 of their last 7 games, with the 1 exception being a 16-3 win in Denver against a tough Broncos defense. In the playoffs, the Pats hung 34 on the vaunted Texans’ stop unit, 36 on the Steelers and another 34 on Atlanta.
The scariest part about that is that New England did all of it without the best tight end in football. Rob Gronkowski returns to the Patriots lineup this season after missing the final 6 regular-season games and the playoffs last year due to a back injury. Even though he played in just 8 games last year, Gronkowski averaged a career-high 21.6 yards per reception and 19 of his 25 catches resulted in first downs.
Injuries are always a concern with Gronk (BetOnline has a prop on how many games he’ll play this year, with the Over/Under at 10.5), but he may not get as banged up this year because New England has added another major receiving threat. Jackrabbit receiver Brandin Cooks, who put up more than 75 catches, 1,100 yards, and 8 touchdowns in each of his last 2 seasons in New Orleans, gives the Pats an ability to stretch the field vertically that they haven’t had in a long time.
Though his offenses have consistently lit up the scoreboard in recent years, Bill Belichick is a defensive guy at his core. So even after New England won the Super Bowl last season, Hoodie quickly set to improving a defense that wasn’t quite up to Belichickian standards in 2016.
The Patriots did allow the fewest points in the NFL last year, but they were still vulnerable through the air, finishing 12th against the pass and struggling to generate a consistent pass rush. They’ve addressed both of those issues with the signing of free-agent Pro Bowler Stephon Gilmore and some changes on the defensive line, including drafting Derek Rivers (14 sacks last year at Youngstown State).
This is a recording, right? New England has won this division 13 of the last 14 years, and the East has produced just 5 wild card teams since 2001.
But the East is especially awful this season. The Jets are in total rebuild mode, while the Bills are being accused of tanking after trading their best offensive player (Sammy Watkins) for a cornerback and a draft pick. And the 1 team in the division that could have at least made New England sweat a bit, the Dolphins, lost starting QB Ryan Tannehill to injury in training camp and had to coax a reluctant Jay Cutler out of retirement to be their starter.
Being able to cruise to a division title (they’re -1400 to win the East) will allow Belichick to take his foot off the gas a bit during the season, and should ensure the Pats get a first-round bye in the playoffs. It also means…
Just look at the season win totals at BetOnline. Only 4 teams in the entire NFL have Over/Under win totals set in double digits (the Packers, Seahawks, Steelers and Patriots). Of those 4, only the Patriots (12.5) have a season win total higher than 10.5, and the Over on that Patriots prop is listed as -125 odds.
So, basically, the Patriots are favored to win 13 games or more this year, and 12 wins are considered their floor. Even a 12-4 year would probably be enough to lock up home field throughout the AFC playoffs (especially if New England wins its head-to-head meeting with the Raiders) when you consider the Broncos are the only AFC team other than New England to win 13 games in a season since 2009.
Being at home throughout the conference playoffs almost ensures New England a berth in the Super Bowl. With Brady under center, in Foxboro.
The Patriots have toyed with their regular-season opposition for more than a decade. But although they’ve also won 5 Super Bowls in the past 15 years, those Super Bowl victories weren’t exactly cakewalks.
In fact, last year’s 34-28 overtime win over the Falcons – when New England trailed 28-3 in the third quarter and Atlanta’s win probability in the fourth quarter was over 90% – was the Patriots’ largest margin of victory in their 5 Super Bowl wins in the Brady/Belichick era.
The Pats’ other Super Bowl wins all came by 4 points or less. Okay, we can throw out their 17-14 win over the Rams in 2002, since New England was a 14-point underdog in that game. But the Pats were supposed to cruise past both the Panthers and Eagles as 7-point favorites in 2004 and 2005, then eked out 3-point wins in each of those contests. Then came the 2015 Super Bowl victory over Seattle, when the Pats needed a late goal-line stand and Malcolm Butler’s interception in the end zone to preserve a 28-24 victory.
I haven’t even mentioned their Super Bowl failures. The Pats were 12-point favorites over the Giants as they looked to finish off a 19-0 season in Super Bowl XLII, then lost 17-14. 4 years later, New England lost to the Giants once again in the big game, falling 21-17.
The point is that each of the Patriots’ 7 Super Bowl appearances could have gone either way. Favorites are rarely safe in the Super Bowl either, with underdogs pulling off the upset in 5 of the last 6. So even if New England’s road to the championship game may look pretty easy, there’s no guarantee the Pats finish off the job.
It’d be silly to suggest that the Patriots don’t want to win the Super Bowl this season. But it’s not hard to argue that they wanted it more last year.
After Brady served his silly 4-game suspension to start the season, he and the rest of the Pats made it their mission to put the screws to commissioner Roger Goodell. We all saw how New England owner Robert Kraft didn’t even look at Goodell when accepting the trophy, then took a couple of shots at the commish in his acceptance speech. And who can forget Brady’s commercial about 5 Super Bowl rings that was actually filmed 4 months earlier, punctuated with a “Roger that!” at the end.
What extra motivation do the Patriots have now? They’re expected to win it all from Day 1, and it’s always easier to be the hunter than the hunted. If anything, the pressure to not only win the Super Bowl but steamroll everyone in their path en route to doing it will make it even harder for New England to repeat.
Remember when the Super Bowl was known as the Super Bore? Those days are long gone. Only 1 team has been favored by double-digits in the Super Bowl since 2002 (the 2007 Patriots, who were gunning for an undefeated season), and the last 8 NFL championship games have featured point spreads of 5 points or lower.
We also don’t see 1 conference dominate the other the way the NFC beat the AFC in 13 straight Super Bowls from 1985-1998, many of those games blowouts. There’s more parity across the NFL than ever before.
So even if the Patriots are the class of the AFC this year as expected, we can be sure to see at least 1 heavyweight rise from the NFC to challenge them. Last year, it was the Falcons with 1 of the best offenses in NFL history. 2 years ago, the Panthers were 15-1. Seattle still has a defense that can give New England fits, the Packers can score points with anybody, the Cowboys were 13-3 last year and the Giants just seem to have New England’s number.
Brady can talk all he wants about how great he feels at 40 years of age, how he’s never sore or how training camp has never been easier. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s 40!
He’s not the most mobile guy in the world. The Patriots offensive line is decent but hardly a fortress, with Pro Football Focus ranking them as going into 2017. We have to at least consider the possibility that Brady will take a huge hit this season and not get back to his feet.
If Brady is out for the playoffs, or even misses a significant stretch of the regular season, all bets are off. The Pats survived the first 4 games without him last year, but they also played 3 of those games at home and 3 of 4 were against teams that didn’t make the playoffs. Jimmy Garoppolo is a nice backup, but he really hasn’t proven anything.
This year, New England has to visit Denver (where the Pats rarely win), Oakland and Pittsburgh, and it also has a home game against Atlanta. If Brady misses any extended period of time, it could be enough to cost the Pats the best record in the AFC and home-field advantage in the conference final.
Like any bet, it depends on the number you’re getting. New England certainly deserves its status as Super Bowl 52 favorite, but you need to have a shot at a decent return when you’re taking 1 team to beat the rest of the field, especially in the NFL.
MyBookie is actually offering a much better price on the Patriots to win Super Bowl 52. When this article was written, they were listing New England at +400 on the 2018 Super Bowl futures, compared to the +305 Bookmaker is offering on the ‘Yes’ to this prop bet. Bovada is another decent option, hanging +325 on New England to win Super Bowl 52.
Getting +400 on the Patriots to win Super Bowl 52 is pretty fair value in my opinion. Even though they were +475 on the Super Bowl futures 1 day after beating Atlanta last February, they’ve gotten better and their opposition, especially within the division, has gotten worse.
Let’s assume the Patriots are around -300 favorites in their first playoff game this year, -200 in the AFC championship game and -150 in Super Bowl 52 (that’s what they were versus Atlanta last year). That 3-game rolling parlay would pay around +235 odds, so we’re getting an extra +165 of value by simply requiring them to make the playoffs, hopefully with the best record in the AFC.