Tom Brady hasn’t been an underdog in back-to-back weeks in the regular season since 2014, when reports of his and the Patriots’ demise were greatly exaggerated.
After Brady and New England suffered an embarrassing 41-14 loss to the Chiefs on “Monday Night Football,” coach Bill Belichick repeatedly responded to questions about the game and his quarterback situation by saying, “We’re on to Cincinnati.”
The following week, the Patriots beat the unbeaten Bengals 43-17 and went on to win their fourth Super Bowl that season and two more after that.
Brady won his seventh Super Bowl title in Tampa Bay, which is on to Cincinnati on Sunday after a 35-7 beatdown by San Francisco.
The Bucs are home underdogs for the first time this season to the streaking Bengals, who are favored by 3½ after winning and covering five straight and going 10-1 against the spread in their last 11 games.
Tampa Bay is an NFL-worst 1-9-1 ATS during that same span. It’s difficult to make a convincing case to back the Bucs, who lead the NFC South with a 6-7 record. But handicapping the NFL is often a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
Brady is 11-1 ATS as a home underdog. He’s fifth in the league in passing yards (3,585), and Tampa ranks ninth in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing only 19.5 points per game.
We’ll back the ghost of NFL past in this one and take the points on an inflated line. We’re on to the rest of the picks.
Four more plays (home team in CAPS):
Ravens (+3) over BROWNS: Baltimore has won five of the last six meetings, including a 23-20 win over Cleveland earlier this season. The lone loss in that stretch was a 24-22 setback last year. The Ravens have thrived as underdogs, going 16-2-1 ATS, and they’re 6-1 ATS as underdogs without Lamar Jackson. Baltimore, which ranks eighth in scoring defense (19.2 ppg), beat Pittsburgh last week without Jackson, and the Browns have been brutal as favorites, going 9-17 ATS.
BILLS (-7) over Dolphins: Miami used bench heaters during its loss at the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night, when temperatures were in the mid-50s. The Dolphins will play their third straight road game against the Bills in upstate New York, where a Lake Effect Snow Warning is in effect. What does that mean? It means we’re taking Buffalo, which had won seven straight meetings with Miami by an average of 19.3 points before losing 21-19 earlier this season. Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins struggle in the cold.
Eagles (-9) over BEARS: Philadelphia is rolling, winning four straight since its lone loss of the season to Washington, covering its last three and crushing the Titans and Giants the last two weeks by a combined score of 83-32. Next up is a Chicago squad that has lost six straight while going 1-5 ATS.
PANTHERS (-3) over Steelers: Carolina has won three of its last four games while going 4-0 ATS under interim coach Steve Wilks. Sam Darnold has helped lead the Panthers to back-to-back victories over the Seahawks and Broncos, and the defense has held its last four opponents to an average of 15.5 ppg. Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett is out with a concussion, and the Steelers will turn to either Mitch Trubisky or Mason Rudolph. Neither option is appealing.
Last week: 3-2