I can’t believe I’m sitting here and waiting to write this piece because I don’t know whether Rob Gronkowski is going to come out of retirement and play for the New England Patriots for the rest of the season.
Not that he was going to make any difference in Sunday’s game after making up his mind on Saturday.
But the fact that all of this has even been a subject of discussion should tell you that the Patriots aren’t necessarily where they want to be on the offensive side of the ball as they await a real challenge for AFC supremacy that is here in the persons of the Baltimore Ravens.
Another team that would like to consider itself a real live contender will be waiting for the Pats at their own house, as the Houston Texans play host to the world champs at NRG Stadium. Game time is 8:20 PM ET, and if you are signed up with BetAnySports you’ll have a chance to place wagers during the game as you access Sports Betting Ultra.
Houston’s head coach, Bill O’Brien, was an assistant under Bill Belichick, so he remembers when Gronk got there with Aaron Hernandez and made for a dynamic tight end duo. Even after Hernandez was arrested, Gronk was a fabulous “uno,” catching 79 TD passes before deciding to hang his cleats up.
Count O’Brien (whose team is 7-4 SU and 5-6 ATS) among those people who isn’t betting that the New England express is going to slow down all that much, no matter who is in the lineup. “Now Gronk’s gone and now somebody else fills in. That’s really the beauty of what they do,” he told reporters this week.
But is there as much beauty now? Tom Brady is always going to be able top fill a stat sheet, at least to some extent, but he really isn’t getting the ball down the field, as the 6.7-yard average would attest. Ben Watson, who will be 39 years old in a couple of weeks, is the leading pass-catcher among tight ends with ELEVEN. We imagine that Phillip Dorsett and Mohamed Sanu will be available for the team on Sunday night, although that is no guarantee. Josh Gordon was let go, and has resurfaced in Seattle. And to paraphrase something Rick Pitino once famously said, “Randy Moss isn’t walking through that door.”
But Gronk might. Who knows? Well, YOU will maybe know by the time you read this, but the point is that even though what New England has done is good enough to have a 10-1 record (7-4 ATS), what they have may not be good enough to get to the Super Bowl again.
Okay, here are the Sunday night NFL odds, where the Pats are laying points on the road:
New England Patriots -3 (-120)
Houston Texans +3 (+100)
Over 46.5 points -110
Under 46.5 points -110
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Amazingly, the Pats are 24th in the NFL in yards gained per drive. They are 16th in points per drive. They are 25th in red zone scoring, which obviously means they are leaving points on the table.
That would have been a spot for Gronkowski. But truth be told, the “Supermen” on this team these days have been on the other side of the ball.
New England, of course, has bailed itself out on the defensive end. You HAVE to do that when you score just 30 points in the last two games, as they have. They are on top of the defensive drive stats, by a wide margin. They have surrendered 20.4 yards per drive. They are the only team in the NFL to give up less than a point per drive, and they are WAY below a point (0.65). They have forced punts on 48% of possessions. They have 20 interceptions. They’ve limited the opposition to 4.7 yards per pass attempt, four passing touchdowns and 54% completions, which in this day and age is almost unheard of. These sound like numbers out of 1935.
Opposing quarterbacks have compiled a rating of 50.5. With Houston’s defense, it’s twice as high (101.0). That is a HUGE difference.
But still, the Pats had about as rough a time stopping Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson in a 37-20 loss as the Texans did in their 41-7 defeat. And Deshaun Watson has at least some of those qualities.
We said SOME. O’Brien does not run Watson nearly as much. And Watson has been about twice as susceptible to getting sacked. He isn’t going to beat the Patriots with his arm.
If the Pats are vulnerable anywhere, it’s up the gut, and the Texans can actually run the ball a little (average five yards an attempt). But we doubt that either DeAndre Hopkins or Will Fuller is going to do enough business to bring Houston in on the long end of this score.
This actually looks like an “under” to us, and wouldn’t you know it – the Pats have played under the total in 16 of their last 20 regular season games.
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