The New England Patriots enter the 2019 NFL playoffs looking to repeat as AFC champions and return to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in five years. The Patriots have also played in seven consecutive AFC championship games, and won their 10th consecutive AFC East title this season against another weak trio of division opponents.
But while the AFC is especially wide open with no dominant team this year, the Patriots have some flaws and stats that don’t justify a wager at the current odds to win the AFC or Super Bowl.
Playoff odds for New England Patriots
New England Patriots to win the AFC Championship +225
New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl +450
New England did secure a No. 2 seed and first round bye, and will host a divisional round playoff game. That will be against Houston if the Texans beat the Colts in the wild card round. The Patriots went 3-0 against three AFC playoff teams this season, beating the Colts, Texans and Chiefs at home.
The Patriots have been a team adapting to change, adversity and injuries throughout the season. Quarterback Tom Brady adapted to a mostly new group of receivers. There was no Julien Edelman to start the season. The addition of Josh Gordon produced some positive results until the wide receivers abrupt end to the season with a suspension and violation of the league’s drug policy. Tight end Rob Gronkowski missed three games and battled back and ankle injuries throughout the season. The All-Pro tight end’s production dropped nearly 40% from last season, which surely disappointed fans of the New England Patriots and Gronk’s fantasy owners.
Safety and captain Devon McCourty suffered a head injury in the regular season finale against the Jets, but is expected to be ready and play. However, the Patriots defense has had an up and down season, and overall they have underperformed and particularly up front. Their 30 sacks were tied for the second-fewest in the NFL this season. The prolific passing offenses of the Chiefs, Colts, Chargers or Texans will tear apart the Patriots. New England again finished in the bottom third of the league in total defense allowing 359.1 yards per game and 5.7 yards per play.
The Patriots lost on the road at Pittsburgh, Miami and Tennessee since November, and Detroit and Jacksonville early in the season. That’s five teams that failed to make the playoffs. Two other road wins against the Bills and Jets was expected and nothing impressive. A win at Chicago was the lone bright spot, but if the Patriots have to go to Kansas City to win the AFC, it’s not likely. In addition, both Houston and Indianapolis are playing much better than when the Patriots beat them earlier in the season, and either the Ravens or Chargers would present a stronger challenge should the Colts win in the wild card round and send Baltimore or Los Angeles to Foxboro.
If you like the New England Patriots to make a run at the Super Bowl, consider betting them to win the AFC only. Their chances are better in that futures market, although I wouldn’t bet on it at +225. If the Patriots do reach the Super Bowl, it’s likely a touchdown or greater margin victory by any of the top-3 seeds in the NFC.
The aura of invincibility that once shrouded the Patriots took a serious blow when they lost to Nick Foles in Super Bowl LII. It hasn’t returned since, even though the oddsmakers are treating them with as much respect as a second seed deserves.
You can bet on it.
Fairway Jay is a professional handicapper based out of Las Vegas. He focuses primarily on the four majors along with college football and college basketball. You can follow him on Twitter @FairwayJay.