Patriots/Steelers Betting Line Moved Due to Tom Brady Suspension in NFL Week 1
The Tom Brady suspension for the Deflategate scandal has caused the line on the Patriots’ opening game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to move by several points. In a surprising move, though, Tom Brady is seen as worth less than a touchdown to the Patriots’ chances by the MGM Grand Sportsbook, which moved the Patriots to a 2-point favorite. New England had been a 6-point favorite.
The NFL announced on Monday that Tom Brady would be suspended from the first 4 games of the NFL Regular Season. The suspension came after all of the controversy over deflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game with the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots won that game 45-7, but the Colts complained that the balls used by Tom Brady were deflated below NFL regulations, which they felt gave New England’s quarterback and receivers an advantage.
The Wells Report
The NFL launched a months-long investigation into the incident, led by former civil litigator Tom Wells. The Wells Report on the investigation was released in early May, which indicated that two Patriots’ locker room attendants, John Jastremski and James McNally, “probably” deflated the balls and Tom Brady “probably” knew about their actions. The investigation, which cited text messages as key evidence, suggested that Tom Brady orchestrated the Deflategate Scandal. It is widely assumed that Brady’s footballs have been deflated for years. In a 2011 radio interview, he told the audience that he liked when Rob Gronkowski scored touchdowns and spiked the ball so hard, because it tended to deflate the balls. Brady is said to prefer balls which are not aired up to NFL standards, because he can grip the balls better and get a tighter spiral.
In the first game of the 2015 NFL season, the World Champion New England Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers. That game takes place on the Thursday night before opening Sunday, which has become traditional. In fact, the Super Bowl champion usually hosts another top rival to start the NFL season. Games are broadcast on NBC, and the broadcast crew is considered the top in the business: the Sunday Night Football crew of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth.
2-Point Favorites over Steelers
The Patriots are now 2-point favorites over the Pittsburgh Steelers, despite Brady missing the game. Backup Jimmy Garappolo, a 2nd-year player out of Eastern Illinois University, is expected to be the starter for the champions in that game.
A couple of things mitigate the damage done by the suspension. One, the Patriots are playing at home. Home field advantage tends to confer a +3 advantage, so the Patriots/Steelers game would have the Steelers at 1-point favorite on the neutral field.
Laveon Bell Suspended
Two, Laveon Bell, the Steelers’ young stud at running back, is also suspended for the game. Bell was suspended after he and LaGarrette Blount were caught with marijuana during the Steelers’ preseason. Blount, who was the Steelers’ backup RB at the time, subsequently was released by the Steelers and picked up by the Patriots, and he was a key factor in New England’s playoff run.
In Weeks 2 through 4, Brady is expected to miss games at the Buffalo Bills on September 20, at home versus the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 27, and (after a Bye week) at the Dallas Cowboys on October 7.
Bills and Jags Should Be Improved
While the Bills and Jags were easy opponents in years past, both teams could be improved in 2015. Buffalo added LeSean McCoy at running back, while it added defensive genius Rex Ryan to coach a defense which was Top 10 last year. The Jaguars are less imposing, though they are in Year 3 of a rebuilding project and Year 2 of the Blake Bortles Era.
The Dallas Cowboys should be a formidable opponent at home, as the Cowboys were 12-4 last year and were considered to have had a solid draft season and free agency–if the Demarco Murray departure is not debilitating. While the Patriots get two weeks to prepare for the Boys game, it is early in the season and the advantage of a week’s rest should not be as significant.
Could Brady Win an Appeal?
One thing gamblers should consider with the Jaguars and Cowboys games is the possibility of Brady’s winning on appeal. Many people have pointed out that it’s a bad precedent to suspend people for “suspicion” of some wrongdoing. Other NFL fans continue to post on social media sites like Facebook that Goodell suspended Ray Rice 2 games for knocking his fiance out cold, while he suspended Tom Brady 4 games for deflating a football. While Roger Goodell subsequently increased the Ray Rice suspension, he may never live down his original decision in that case.
Adrian Peterson’s suspension was lightened. It is very possible Brady’s suspension will be, as well. Gamblers might be able to make bets on the Jacksonville and Dallas games based on Brady missing the game, then see the suspension lightened by a game or two and be playing at an advantage.
Odds for the Game
Not everyone has the Patriots a 2-point favorite. CG Technology has the Pats at -1. William Hill’s sportsbook has New England at minus-2.5. Nick Bogdanovich, Trading Director for William Hill, said he still thinks the Pats are a clear favorite. Boddanovich said, “I would not sell this team short whatsoever. There has to be an adjustment, but it doesn’t have to be huge.
The biggest advantage in this betting is the Denver Broncos, who have moved from 12-to-1 all the way to 8-to-1 in the futures betting. Futures bets predict the outcome of whole seasons, so the Broncos are now 8-to-1 favorites to win the Super Bowl.
The reason for the seismic shift is the home field advantage factor. Two seasons ago, the Broncos held the home field advantage over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game and advanced to the Super Bowl. Last year, the Patriots held the home field advantage and advanced (against the Colts). With the Patriots missing Tom Brady for 1/4th of the season, their chances of achieving the best record in the AFC and holding the home field advantage throughout the playoffs decreases. That opens the door for the Broncos, who are still seen as the 2nd-best team in the conference.
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