Pats Dismal on Defense



by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

It can be hard to let go of past impressions. The New England Patriots have been a dominant football team for so long that it's difficult to accept that they're just not championship caliber any more.

Yes, the quarterback is still a championship caliber quarterback. Though, he is getting old. And, you have to admit that he hasn't been setting the world on fire cohabitating with a supermodel.

Yes, the head coach will be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer (barring grudges from jealous selectors) because of all he's accomplished in the league. If he retired now he'd go in, and he's at an age where he could coach another 5-10 years if he wanted to.

Yes, Wes Welker will go in the feistiness Hall of Fame and footage of his exploits will inspire viewers of NFL Films for time immemorial. Just like those old highlights of Fran Tarkenton scrambling for dear life still make for good TV on those 'let's reminisce about the good ole' days' shows.

There's no running game any more. And the defense had DISAPPEARED!

Yesterday we talked about the overlooked Chicago Bears defense to help get you ready for their Sunday Night appearance against the NY Giants. Today, we're going to study the Pats defense has you prepare to handicap tonight's ESPN game in Miami. Through the first three games, the Pats have been one of the worst defenses in the league, particularly when you adjust for context. Heck, adjusting for context, it's probably one of the worst defenses of the past several years for a playoff caliber team.

24 vs. Cincinnati
28 at NY Jets
30 vs. Buffalo

First of all, that's 82 points early in the season when many offenses were still in exhibition form. Early action was noted for sloppy play from quarterbacks, low scoring games, and frustrated fantasy players wondering why all of their high draft picks weren't doing anything on the field. In THAT context, New England allowed 82 points in three weeks.

Oh, in THAT context, they allowed 82 points in three weeks to unimpressive offenses!

*Cincinnati has been horrendously sloppy outside of their second half garbage time effort against these Pats. Carson Palmer is throwing like he had Tommy John surgery on July 4th and didn't want to tell anybody.

*The NY Jets couldn't move the ball at all against Baltimore in their season opener. They lit up the Patriots and controlled that game from the second quarter on. Mark Sanchez is a second-year QB who's still in a bit over his head vs. good defenses. He didn't need his floaties vs. the Pats because he wasn't in the deep end.

*Buffalo. Do we even need to remind anyone that Buffalo has no offense? New England allowed 30 points to Buffalo. That usually takes seven or eight quarters.

428 vs. Cincinnati
336 at NY Jets
374 vs. Buffalo

Not quite as bad as those scoring totals make it sound. But, that just means that the Pats are being very inefficient on defense. They're not making teams work hard for their points. Again, this is EARLY in the season vs. relatively WEAK offenses!

53% vs. Cincinnati
46% at NY Jets
50% vs. Buffalo

We've talked often the past few years about how third down conversions are the coin of the realm in the modern pro game. Offenses have to move the chains consistently to put points on the board (and help their own defenses rest). Top defenses prevent opponents from controlling the flow of the game by stopping third down conversions. During this sluggish early part of the season, the norms are in the low 40's. New England is making everybody look like Peyton Manning and the Colts!

Cincinnati and their dead armed quarterback broke 50%. Buffalo and their second string quarterback landed right on that mark. The Jets didn't quite get there. They didn't need to. They were coasting to a two-touchdown victory thanks to long drives that kept putting points on the board.

Speaking of long drives...

DRIVE POINTS ALLOWED (on drives of 60 yards or more)
21 vs. Cincinnati
25 at NY Jets
7 vs. Buffalo

Buffalo had a few drives that just missed the threshold. Even with that statistical break for the Pats, we're looking at 53 drive points allowed through three games, which is 17.67 per outing on average. Horrible. That's what the worst teams in the league do when they've given up hope. It's as if an elite offense like Indy or New Orleans was paired with the Detroit Lions defense. The games are entertaining. You won't go far in the playoffs that way if you're lucky enough to make the playoffs.

To this point, handicapping the Patriots is fairly simple. You know the defense is going to allow points. If you think Tom Brady is going to have some trouble against a top defense, just bet the opponent. If you think Brady is capable of putting up some TD's, just bet on the Over and don't worry about the team side pointspread.

Game One: Over by 18 points
Game Two: Pats fail to cover by 17 points
Game Three: Over by 26 points

That sets you up for tonight. Will Brady be able to score on the Miami defense? If so, think about the Over. If he's going to struggle a he did last year in a 22-21 loss on this field, you have to figure Miami is going to make sense against the fading Pats defense.

Is it really that simple? Is handicapping EVER that simple?!

JIM HURLEY knows that Bill Belichick isn't one to just sit back and let the league pass him by. Maybe this is the week that he solves the riddle of stopping the opposition. Maybe this is the week Tom Brady can focus on working the clock rather than the scoreboard.

The NFL is always a moving target when it comes to handicapping. Nobody stands still long enough for you to specify a sure thing. The good news is that you only have to break 52.5% to show a profit with your picks. If you're hitting 65% or 70% on your very strongest bets, you're going to earn a huge profit over the course of a long season.

And, JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK has one of those 65-70% situations TONIGHT based on what we're hearing from our SCOUTS, our on site SOURCES, our STAT HANDICAPPERS, our COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS, and our WISE GUY CONNECTIONS. As is fairly common with Patriots games over the years in both directions...this side or total number could be off by double digits. If Belichick gets the pieces in place, it's a win. If not, another disappointing road loss in the division. And, the total? Talk about volatility!

If you try to guess on your own, you may guess wrong. You know how Monday Night's have been for you in the past. You've zigged when you should have zagged. You went dog when you should have gone favorite. When you went favorite, the dog pulled a shocker.


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For now, the focus is on tonight. We mentioned earlier that Bill Belichick is a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. The biggest name is handicapping's Hall of Fame is destined to be JIM HURLEY!

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