The following is a collection of expert betting analysis surrounding the New England Patriots’ 2021 season and their Week 1 matchup with the Miami Dolphins from VSiN contributors.
A spring game in Tuscaloosa is headed north as Tua Tagavailoa and Mac Jones renew acquaintances in the season opener when the Dolphins and Pats open the season in Foxborough for the second straight year. This line has ping-ponged back and forth. It opened at 2.5, briefly ticked up to the key number of 3, then moved back to 2.5 after Jones was announced as the starter. The Patriots will not look the same as the 7-9 team that missed the playoffs last year, as they add an influx of talent with the return of opt-outs, some major free agent signings and the addition of their rookie quarterback. The Dolphins add receivers Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller looking to spark their offense and improve on a 10-win season in which they fell just short of a playoff berth. This game is one of the lower totals of the opening week and has been bet down from 45.5 to 43.5. — Will Hill
PATRIOTS 2021 SEASON OUTLOOK
The crown jewels of the offseason are at tight end, where New England added Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. Both are dynamic receiving threats, with the former catching the third-most touchdown passes among tight ends last season. Henry has had injury problems but posted PFF grades of over 83 in his first two seasons. Both should thrive in Josh McDaniels’ offense, and they get paired with a fantastic offensive line. In 2020 the Patriots were one of the best run-blocking lines in the NFL. By PFF standards, they were sixth-best, and they had the 10th-best rushing offense. Football Outsiders placed them third in adjusted line yards, and they converted 78 percent of their power situations. With this line, Smith and Henry in the fold and an emerging running back in Damien Harris, this is likely to be one of the best run games in the league. And the floor is raised even more should they get quality quarterback play, which did not happen a season ago.
Making a playoff push also depends on New England’s defense improving. The Patriots ranked 14th in total defense, 19th in PFF defensive grading and 26th in defensive DVOA. Dont’a Hightower is back after opting out last season, and the Patriots added edge rushers Matthew Judon and Kyle Van Noy in the offseason, so this team looks better than it was. One of the most impactful areas in which the Pats should be better is pass rushing. New England pressured quarterbacks at the fifth-highest rate in 2020 but finished with just 24 sacks. Judon and Van Noy, along with Josh Uche and Chase Winovich, will be able to maintain the rate of pressure while adding to the sack total. Look for this team to be one of the better pass-rushing units in the league. The real improvement needs to come against the run. The Patriots ranked 30th or lower defensively in three of the six rushing categories that Football Outsiders tracks. Most of the Patriots’ best run defenders in 2020 were corners or safeties, which must change.
New England owns the 19th-hardest schedule in the league when evaluated by opponent win totals, and much of that is due to a good division. They have a massive question mark at the most important position but are largely improved on offense and defense. Belichick has a quality offensive line and pass rush, two things necessary to win in the NFL. Given the weapons, Jones should provide enough to make it back to the postseason. However, New England’s betting market win total is 9.5 shaded to the Over with a -125 price tag. This team should be much better, but to say New England has a 55.6 percent chance to win 10 or more games is too high.
–Jonathan Von Tobel
PATRIOTS SEASON-LONG PROP
The Patriots’ running back was excellent last season, finishing as the second-highest-graded rusher (90.3) to Derrick Henry, according to PFF. Part of Harris’ success is due to an offensive line that is one of the best in the NFL in run blocking. PFF graded this unit as the sixth-best run-blocking group in the league (76.2) in 2020, and according to Football Outsiders, they were third in adjusted line yards per carry (4.82). Bill Belichick has been vocal in his support of Harris, and given the shape this offense is taking, bettors can expect a focus on the running game. I took this at 100-1 and it’s down to 75-1, but I still like the value.
–Jonathan Van Tobel
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